Concussion Research Program Works to Protect Humboldt’s Athletes - Humboldt State Now

Concussion Research Program Works to Protect Humboldt’s Athletes

As more professional and collegiate athletes grab headlines for the unfortunate results of long-term head trauma, a program at Humboldt State is working to understand ways to better diagnose and protect athletes.

Research conducted by HSU’s North Coast Concussion Program (NCCP) has been a boon to Humboldt State intercollegiate athletics and club sports, and local high school athletes have also benefited from the efforts of Kinesiology Professor Justus Ortega (Kinesiology, ’97), Program Coordinator Beth Larson (master’s, Kinesiology, ’10) and their student staff. The next step in promoting a greater understanding of sports-related head injuries is to get other California State University campuses involved, Ortega says.

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Student Tamlyn Tsubota participates in impact testing as part of the NCCP’s assessment.

“The goal is simple – to help athletes be as healthy and safe as possible,” said Ortega.

That objective is being realized widely at high schools in Humboldt County. Ortega’s research teams – students the field experience and special topics classes – conduct testing to establish a baseline. They can then test the athlete after they suffer a suspected head injury and compare those results with the baseline. It can also demonstrate progressive deterioration that may occur after several incidents.

“The (NCCP students) check in with us every Monday to find out if any students are displaying symptoms of impact injuries,” said Jack Lakin, vice president of the Humboldt Del Norte League. “We’ve also shared the information on their program with parents and staff. Anyone can contact the NCCP to report symptoms, and they respond very quickly.”

Lakin, who is also the Ferndale High School principal and superintendent, was impressed with Larson’s presentation to local high school administrators three years ago. As a former football coach, he realized the value in identifying, measuring, and following up with younger athletes, and advocated for the NCCP’s involvement.

“It started with the coaches and league officials, but the education on this issue has expanded to include administrators, teachers and staff from all the local school districts,” Lakin said. “I’ve seen what districts outside of our area are providing and realize how fortunate we are to have Beth’s expertise and Humboldt State’s support. They’ve put us at the forefront of addressing an important area of students’ health and safety.”