Fort Collins doctor, CSU prof land concussion-research grant from NCAA, DoD

FORT COLLINS — A neuropsychologist in Fort Collins and a Colorado State University professor will receive a $400,000 grant to study the underreporting of concussions among athletes at 12 middle and high schools in Northern Colorado over the next three years.

Doug Coatsworth, a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and director of CSU’s Prevention Research Center, has teamed up with Alissa Wicklund, a neuropsychologist and concussion specialist at the Orthopaedic & Spine Center of the Rockies in Fort Collins, on the project. Wicklund provides concussion care for athletes and others from throughout Northern Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. Melissa George, a research scientist in the Prevention Research Center, is also an investigator in the project.

The team will examine the concussion culture at schools in the Poudre and Thompson school districts by collecting information from students, parents, coaches, teachers, administrators and athletic trainers and hope to develop a way to measure the “culture of concussion reporting” and then guide these groups through a process to identify and implement programs and policies on how to best handle concussions.

Coatsworth said the initiative will examine if there is a “culture of resistance” around reporting concussions. Oftentimes, he explained, athletes are unwilling to reveal a head injury because it means they could lose playing time.

“It may also be seen as weak, or letting your team down because you can’t play,” he said.

Coatsworth added that members of the military sometimes don’t report concussions due to “a culture of being tough. And if you report, you may be taken off duty.”

When concussions go unreported, he said, the injury can end up being compounded.

The grant is part of the NCAA-DoD Mind Matters Challenge. The NCAA and Department of Defense are investing in the effort to learn more about the dynamics around concussions incurred in youth sports, college athletics and the military.

The Coatsworth/Wicklund project was selected from 22 finalists announced last summer in the research category.