A group of students and faculty at University of Lynchburg recently published research that would help make student-athletes safer — and one student won a national research award in the process.
Dr. Tom Bowman, a University of Lynchburg athletic training professor, has worked with students for several years to study head impacts in college soccer and lacrosse. When the research began in 2014, student-athletes wore chips behind their ears to measure the force of head impacts during games and the research team recorded the action. Since gathering that data, Dr. Bowman’s team has studied the game footage and corresponding head impact data.
The student researchers have seen the fruits of their labor as national science journals and conferences have picked up on their research. Most recently, Clinical Biomechanics published their paper about head impacts in men’s lacrosse in March 2017. This summer, athletic training majors Sarah Coronel ’17 and Hallie Sayre ’17 will present their research at the National Athletic Trainers’ Association convention in Houston, Texas.
By conducting research, students have the opportunity to address real-world questions and learn by solving problems. “I was really interested in the research because I had heard people speak about it before so I jumped at the opportunity,” said Sarah. The process taught her how much work goes into research, and seeing the finished product was really fulfilling, she added.
Research also allows students to make an impact on the world and get noticed. In addition to publishing the paper in Clinical Biomechanics and presenting at this summer’s conference, Hallie won the NATA student writing award for original research, honoring her paper that honed in on concussions in women’s soccer and lacrosse.
Hallie credits her professors for helping her and Sarah master the art of research. “Working with Dr. Tom was awesome. I cannot use words to describe how much he has done for us,” she said. “We would not have been able to present our research this summer at the NATA conference if it was not for him.”
2017 is the research team’s fourth year studying men’s lacrosse, and the group has studied impacts in men’s and women’s soccer for three years. By comparing head impact data with video footage of games, the team discovered that many hits to the head were the result of players breaking lacrosse rules that are not penalized often. This means that student-athletes could be spared some potentially dangerous impacts if rules were enforced more stringently. “Our intention is to make sports safer,” he said. “It’s what our careers are all about: to improve athlete safety and prevent injury.”
Three alumni from the Class of 2015 — Kathleen O’Day ’15, Elizabeth Koehling ’15, and Lydia Vollavanh ’15 — also worked on the Clinical Biomechanics paper, as well as athletic training professor Dr. Debbie Bradney and physical therapy professor Dr. Price Blair. The group collaborated with James May at the University of Idaho and Purdue University researchers Katherine Breedlove, Evan Breedlove, and Eric Nauman.