OCR doctor, CSU professor awarded concussion research grant by NCAA

For Immediate Release: February 8, 2016

Contact: Armi Hall, 970-419-7140, info@orthohealth.com

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — An Orthopaedic & Spine Center of the Rockies (OCR) doctor and a Colorado State University professor are part of a national initiative to boost research on concussions, in an effort jointly funded and announced by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Alissa Wicklund, PhD, OCR’s neuropsychologist and concussion specialist, has teamed up with Doug Coatsworth, PhD, a professor in Colorado State’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies and director of Prevention Research Center, to study underreporting of concussions in 12 northern Colorado middle and high schools.

The two doctors will receive $400,000 for three years in one of only eight research projects announced Feb. 5 as part of the NCAA-DoD Mind Matters Challenge.

Dr. Wicklund provides specialty concussion care for athletes and others from throughout northern Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska.

The NCAA and DoD are investing in the initiative to learn more about the dynamics around concussions incurred in youth sports, college athletics and the military.

The Mind Matters Challenge includes an educational program challenge and a research challenge; the Wicklund/Coatsworth project was selected from 22 finalists announced last summer in the research category.

Their project is titled, “Assessing and changing the culture of concussion reporting in middle and high school youth: A community collaborative approach.” Dr. Coatsworth said the initiative will examine whether we are creating “culture of resistance” around reporting concussions. Oftentimes, he explained, athletes are unwilling to reveal a head injury because it means they could lose playing time.

“It may also be seen as weak, or letting your team down because you can’t play,” he said.

By the same token, Dr. Coatsworth added, members of the military sometimes don’t report concussions due to “a culture of being tough. And if you report, you may be taken off duty.”

When concussions go unreported, he said, the injury can end up being compounded. In their project, Drs. Coatsworth and Wicklund will examine the concussion culture at schools in the Poudre and Thompson school districts by collecting information from students, parents, coaches, teachers, administrators and athletic trainers.

Through interviews and surveys with those individuals, they aim to develop a new way to measure the “culture of concussion reporting” and then guide these groups through a collaborative, science-based process to identify and implement programs and policies needed to align with best practices around how concussions are handled. They will engage two middle schools and two high schools in each of the three years.

Melissa George, a research scientist in the Prevention Research Center, is also an investigator in the project.

Coatsworth said having Wicklund co-lead the effort is key.

“She recognizes how different teams understand concussions differently,” he said. “Subcultures may exist within the schools: How the girls’ volleyball team reports concussions may differ from girls’ soccer. This is a terrific university-community project with Alissa and OCR.”

“One aspect of the project is to examine how young athletes may be influenced by their relationships and social environments when they choose to report or to not report concussions,” Dr. Wicklund said. “Doug’s expertise in prevention research provides an exciting opportunity for collaboration, with the goal of assessing young athletes’ behavior and providing solutions within a specific sports culture.”

Drs. Coatsworth and Wicklund gave a presentation and answered questions at an awards ceremony held at the NCAA national office in Indianapolis.

The NCAA and DoD joined ranks more than a year ago to create the NCAA-DOD Grand Alliance, which includes a CARE Consortium concussion study and the Mind Matters Challenge. The alliance’s goal is to provide compelling, research-based models that eventually lead to every head injury being reported and treated properly, rather than being ignored or overlooked.

Launched in November 2014, the Mind Matters Challenge includes $7 million in funding for the two-pronged educational and research approach. The six education challenge winners were also recognized at the Feb. 5 Mind Matters event.


OCR and its 25 doctors provide patients with specialized orthopaedic, spine, sports medicine, sports concussion, and podiatry care at its offices in Fort Collins and Loveland, CO.

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

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