A research study led by Gordon Duren ’14 found that Division I athletes are significantly less willing to report concussion symptoms to their coaches than Division III athletes. (above, from left: Jenny Connor ’14, Gordon Duren ’14 and Erika Ripperger ’15)
A psychology major from Columbia, S.C., he is the lead researcher with an on-going study at Centre about concussions.
He and the other members of his research team, Jenny Connor ’14, a psychology major from Alpharetta, Ga., and Erika Ripperger ’15, a behavioral neuroscience major from Loveland, Ohio, will present their findings, “Put Me in Coach!: Differences in Undergraduate Students’ Knowledge about Concussions and Return-to-Play Guidelines,” at Centre’s upcoming RICE symposium highlighting student research, internships and creative endeavors.
Study of athletes’ willingness to report concussions started at Centre a few years ago. The first survey was based on an existing one developed and tested elsewhere, explains KatieAnn Skogsberg, the assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience and psychology who has overseen the project from the outset.
“However, Gordon initiated and oversaw the development of a whole new series of questions, namely, the ones asking about the escalating pressures (practice, mid-season game, championships) and other questions,” she says. “[He] really has taken the lead on all of the hard work.”
Duren joined the concussion project last year, then spent last summer working with Skogsberg to sort and analyze the data.
The current iteration involved surveying athletes from all varsity sports, along with non-athletes, at both a Division I school and a Division III school.
“What surprised me most is that even though approximately 97 percent of our participants recognized that if an individual sustains a[nother] concussion before the first one has healed, the individual could suffer incredible brain damage . . . athletes are still not very willing to report concussion symptoms,” says Duren. “Our participants would have made an F on a concussion knowledge exam,”
Another unexpected result was the importance of playing a contact sport on willingness to report—but only at the Division III level.
“Division III non-contact athletes are much more likely to report concussion symptoms than their contact counterparts,” says Duren. “We see no significant differences between contact sport athletes and non-contact sport athletes at our Division I school.”
A varsity swimmer himself, Duren says that he has long been interested in what motivates athletes to push themselves to reach a goal or to defeat opposing teams.
“My [research] team developed a set of novel questions that address athletes’ attitudes towards disclosing symptoms of concussion to their coaches under various game intensities,” he says. “Concussions were not a very popular topic until recently, and our literature reviews as well as our data show that knowledge in the area is lacking.”
Duren and his research team have already presented their results at a number of conferences, including the Association for Psychological Sciences, Kentucky Psychological Association, Kentucky Academy of Sciences, and the National Conference of Undergraduate Research. They will also present their work at the Midwestern Psychological Association meeting next month.
He adds that he is especially pleased to bring their findings to campus.
“We’ve yet to present this information to our local community,” he says. “RICE is the perfect opportunity.”
The RICE presentation of “Put Me In Coach” will take place on April 10 in Young 102 at 4:45 p.m.
The 2014 RICE symposium will be held April 10-11. It includes 61 oral presentations, 28 poster presentations and a musical performance. There is also an exhibition of artistic works in the AGEON Gallery of the Jones Visual Arts Center.
By Diane Johnson