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IU Bloomington Faculty Member Researching Effect of Repeated Subconcussive Head Impact

Every year, millions of people suffer from concussions; most often occurring during sports play. A concussion is a serious injury and causes symptoms such as headache, nausea, dizziness, confusion, and even brief loss of consciousness. But what happens when an athlete sustains a hit to the head but not to the level of a concussion? And, what impact do these hits have on an athlete in terms of his or her risk for a future concussion?

[Photo: Dr. Keisuke Kawata]

This is exactly what researcher and Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington assistant professor of kinesiology, Dr. Keisuke Kawata, is working to discover with a grant from the Indiana State Department of Health – Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Fund (two years: $152,723).

[Photo: Dr. Zhongxue Chen]

“A subconcussive impact is defined as an impact to the head that does not elicit any symptoms of concussion,” Dr. Kawata explains. “Most research focuses on a single impact that elicits concussion, although many athletes are frequently exposed to subconcussive impacts prior to the concussive blow.”

Dr. Kawata is expanding on his previous research studies that identified subtle neural defects caused by repetitive mild head hits. In this new study, he plans to work with soccer players as well as pediatric divers to clarify the effects of subconcussive impacts using novel blood biomarkers and eye movement testing.

“It remains unclear whether neuronal damage is caused by a single concussive blow, repetitive subconcussive impacts before the concussive blow, or both,” he explains. “Understanding the effects of repetitive head hits will be instrumental steps toward ensuring players’ safety while maximizing their performance.”

Dr. Kawata, and research partner associate professor of biostatistics Dr. Zhongxue Chen, will continue their work on this study through June 2019.

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