A University of Lynchburg professor and several students continue to work this summer on research designed to improve lacrosse and soccer safety.
Dr. Tom Bowman, a University of Lynchburg athletic training professor, and his students have been recording data on the severity of head impacts during men’s lacrosse and women’s soccer practices and games. Small sensors fitted behind athletes’ ears recorded the forces that players’ heads felt during a game.
Dr. Bowman recruited six students to continue the research this summer by comparing the head impact data with videos. The footage reveals information about each collision: What caused it? Did the athlete brace for the impact it? What was the response? Did the collision result in a penalty?
The data could improve player safety by highlighting the way athlete education, rule enforcement, and safety equipment all can reduce the occurrence and significance of head impacts, Dr. Bowman said.
The students are working remotely by connecting to a media server that holds the head impact data and footage from practices and games.
One of the student researchers, Bradley Jackson ‘16, received a $2,000 fellowship from the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges to support his role in the project. “I have more than just the end result to strive for,” he said. “Because of the fellowship, it makes me want to work harder.”
Bradley hopes that the research will help more people recognize the risk that head impacts pose in college sports. “It’s something that’s not very heavily researched,” he said.
Another rising LC senior is working with Dr. Bowman and mechanical engineers at Michigan Technological University to examine the physical properties of lacrosse helmets. In July, Dane Bower ‘16 and Dr. Bowman will travel to Michigan to study helmet plastics.
“We’re going to take a look at these different polymers that make up the helmet and see how they react under certain conditions,” Dr. Bowman said.
His students’ data collection and analysis have been critical for this project, he added. “It’s been a real collaborative effort,” he said. “I have excellent students who do an outstanding job. They are totally on board and they are committed to the safety of our student athletes.”
He is glad to give LC students an opportunity to see how athletic training is a lot more than designing a workout program or helping an athlete heal. “The biggest parts of our jobs are not just dealing with injuries when they happen, but also trying to prevent injuries on the front end,” Dr. Bowman said. “This is all about improving athlete safety and preventing head injury.”