At the National Athletic Trainers’ Association 69th Clinical Symposium and AT Expo, held in New Orleans in June, recent Lynchburg graduate Briana Rexrode ’18 won a national award for best undergraduate research poster.
Her project, conducted with Dr. Tom Bowman, associate professor of athletic training at Lynchburg, looked at the effect that socioeconomic status has on baseline neurocognitive performance.
Dr. Bowman, who has done extensive research on concussions, said it’s good to know a student-athlete’s “baseline” before they suffer a concussion. “Student-athletes are baseline tested at the beginning of the season, so we know how their brain works at normal,” he said. “If they sustain an impact to the head and we want to see if they have a concussion, we redo that test.”
Dr. Bowman wondered if socioeconomic status impacted baselines. He said there’s been a “small push” in the athletic training world to “move away from baseline testing and just use normative data, and what we’re suggesting is normative data doesn’t work for everyone. It needs to be an individualized plan of care.”
Over the past year, Dr. Bowman and Rexrode tried to find out if there was a connection between socioeconomic status and baseline neurocognitive performance. Using data provided by local high schools from about 1,800 student-athletes, they analyzed the baseline test scores of two groups: those who were eligible for free or reduced lunch and those who weren’t.
“It gives us a breakout of several different measures: visual memory, reaction time, memory, attention, process speed, things like that,” Dr. Bowman said of the data. “What we’re saying is that we would suggest that all athletes, at the beginning of the year, have an individualized ‘normal’ for that particular athlete. So if they get hit in the head and you want to test for a concussion you know what’s normal for them and not normative data for a large [group].”
In the end, the research confirmed their suspicions. “We found that those who were eligible for free or reduced lunch had lower visual memory, verbal memory, and visual motor scores, and higher reaction times than those who weren’t eligible for free or reduced lunch,” Rexrode said. “We concluded that socioeconomic status did affect their neurocognitive abilities.”
When Rexrode first started the project, she admitted to being apprehensive. “Honestly, when I first started, I was not looking forward to it because I knew what had to be done and it would take a lot of time,” she said, adding that “once I got rolling and got everything done, I loved it. It was probably one of the most fun classes I’ve done. … I did this. I got an award in New Orleans. That’s a really big accomplishment for me.”
Rexrode wasn’t the only person from Lynchburg’s Athletic Training program to be honored over the past few months.
Program director Dr. Debbie Bradney won Athletic Trainer Service Awards at the 2018 Mid-Atlantic and National Athletic Trainers’ Association conferences. Service awards recognize athletic trainers for volunteer work they do at the local and state levels.
Among other things, Dr. Bradney is involved in the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education, she creates questions for the Board of Certification’s national exam, she volunteers with the Salvation Army and Relay for life, and she’s a board member, coach, and volunteer for Girls on the Run.
“I believe Dr. Bradney’s most significant contribution as an athletic trainer is her dedication and passion for teaching and mentoring students,” Dr. Bowman said. “She is honest and fair, ethical in all interactions with students, and is always willing to help.
“She has an open-door policy, where students may meet with her anytime about academic issues, clinical education, or just life in general. We often joke that Deb is the mom of our program, but I think that is a telling description of her caring attitude toward all members of our program. …
“The results of her leadership have been the training of a multitude of athletic trainers who are making an impact in their clinical practice by arriving at work with a smile on their faces, facing challenges head on, and providing excellent patient care.”
Dr. Pat Aronson, professor of athletic training at Lynchburg, also was honored this year. She was inducted into the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame at the organization’s annual conference, held in May. She is the first athletic trainer from the University of Lynchburg to be inducted into the MAATA Hall of Fame.
“Dr. Aronson has been an instrumental leader in athletic training,” Dr. Bowman said. “She has held multiple leadership positions and has played a key role in a number of important professional decisions. She is most deserving of this prestigious award.”
Kirsten Blake ’18 won first place in the Larry Sutton Post-Professional Scholarship at the MAATA Conference. According to the MAATA, the $1,500 grant “target[s] candidates who indicate an intention to continue academic work beyond the completion of the Professional Athletic Training Program level.”
Michelle Yando ’18 won the Bobby Gunn Student Leadership Award, which funded her trip to the NATA conference.
Rexrode, Blake, and Yando were some of the last students to earn bachelor’s degrees in athletic training from Lynchburg, as the program is evolving into a five-year Master of Science in Athletic Training. The MSAT saw its first graduates in May.
One of Lynchburg’s preceptors, defined as a “certified/licensed professional who teaches and/or evaluates students in a clinical setting using an actual patient base,” also was honored recently. At the NATA conference, Jen Armstrong, athletic trainer for E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, won the Gatorade Secondary School Athletic Trainer of the Year award for the mid-Atlantic region.
All told, seven undergraduates, five graduate students, and five faculty members from Lynchburg attended the NATA conference. “All of the faculty attended,” Dr. Bowman said. “It was a big year.”
While in New Orleans, the athletic training program also hosted an alumni party. In addition to alumni, attendees include preceptors from clinical sites that work with Lynchburg athletic training students. About 40 people attended the event to catch up with classmates and colleagues and to network.