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Pac-12 Student-Athlete Health Grant Program Announces Yearly Projects

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As a part of the Pac-12’s Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Grant Program, the Conference selected three research projects to fund this year, it announced today. The research projects will explore important student-athlete health issues including head trauma, return to sport assessment, and injury prevention and total $2.1 million in funding.

Created in 2013, the Grant Program is part of the overall Pac-12 Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Initiative. The initiative is a collective effort between the conference and its member universities to find ways to reduce injuries, share current best practices and latest studies, and conduct research to uncover new ways to keep student-athletes as safe as possible.

“The Pac-12 continues to demonstrate a profound and concrete commitment to the health and well-being of its student-athletes and the broader health of athletes everywhere through its commitment to funding clinically relevant research,” said Dr. Kim Harmon, chair of the Pac-12 Student-­Athlete Health and Well-­Being Board and head football physician at the University of Washington. “What we are able to accomplish as a conference is much greater than any one individual institution could accomplish alone and the research funded thus far will make a real and lasting impact on our athletes.”

This is the third funding cycle of the Pac-12’s Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Grant Program which commits millions of dollars annually to research projects conducted at Pac-12 institutions that are designed to improve the health, general well-being, and safety of student-athletes at all Conference member institutions.

Doctors, athletic trainers, and research experts from all 12 Pac-12 institutions reviewed proposals submitted to them and ultimately decided to fund three projects to be conducted on three different Pac-12 campuses this year.

The projects being funded this cycle include (with the lead university noted):

1. Head Trauma: Roles of Nutritive Support and Supplementation (California Golden Bears)

Studies have shown that the brain uses lactate as a fuel source when available. Studies have also shown that patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) are often undernourished, meaning the brain has less fuel sources to use for healing. The goal of this project is to determine whether or not supplementation with lactate on the background of adequate nutrition will improve TBI recovery by giving the brain an extra fuel source. This will be accomplished through a series of studies on laboratory rats, where rats with mild TBIs that mimic concussions will be given standard of care (inadequate) nutrition, adequate nutrition, and adequate nutrition plus extra lactate. Brain healing will be assessed to see if appropriate nutrition with and without lactate supplementation improves recovery time and outcomes.

2. Overuse Injuries / Injury Prevention: Integration of Biomechanics-based Information for Prevention of Stress Fractures (Oregon Ducks)

Stress fractures are a very common form of injury in athletes, especially long distance runners. This project’s goal is to analyze a group of runners’ biomechanical information such as foot motion patterns, foot-to-ground contact patterns, and accelerations and then track stress fracture development in these runners over a three year period to see which biomechanical patterns are associated with the development of stress fractures. This new biomechanics-based information can then be integrated with already known risk factors such as nutrition status and training volume/intensity to predict runners who are at a higher risk of stress fracture.

3. Injury Prevention: Simple Motion Capture Technology for Readiness of Return to Sport Assessment and Injury Risk (Washington Huskies)

There are few objective and widely accepted methods to determine when student-athletes are ready to return to their sport after injury or surgery, and even fewer methods available to measure abnormal joint movements. The goal of this study is to compare a low cost simple motion capture technology (Microsoft Kinect™) to the gold standard (but more expensive and complicated) standard motion capture system (Vicon™). Functional movement data will be evaluated in healthy volunteers using both systems and results will be compared to help determine if Microsoft Kinect is a viable option to measure abnormal joint movements and help facilitate safe return to sports after injury at a lower cost than standard systems.

The Pac-12 Grant Program has made it a priority to fund cutting-edge research by pooling the collective expertise of its membership, which comprises some of the foremost research institutions in the world.

“The projects awarded this Pac-12 Grant Program cycle complement the research projects funded by the Pac-12 over the last two years, particularly in the areas of head trauma and injury prevention,” said Dan Nordquist, the Associate Vice President for the Office of Research Support and Operations unit at Washington State University and the chair of the Pac-12’s Research Grant Program Committee. “Building on early results from current Pac-12 studies, we are excited to add these recently approved projects to the research program and we expect that the program will continue to provide significant and valuable insights into improving the health and well-being of all Pac-12 student-athletes.”