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Mind Matters Challenge research winners announced

Eight schools present research plans focused on changing concussion culture

Eight winners of the NCAA-Department of Defense Mind Matters Research Challenge were recognized today at the NCAA national office in Indianapolis.

The winners, who will each receive a $400,000 award to fund their projects, are among those who answered a call from the two to submit research proposals designed to improve the understanding of how to spur changes in the culture surrounding concussion. The eight were drawn from a field of 22 finalists announced in July.

The two entities joined ranks more than a year ago to create the NCAA-DOD Grand Alliance, which includes the CARE Consortium concussion study and the Mind Matters Challenge. The alliance’s goal: Provide compelling, research-based models that create a cultural dynamic in which every head injury is reported and managed properly, rather than be concealed from peers, coaches or others.

Launched in November 2014, the Mind Matters Challenge includes $7 million in funding for a two-pronged approach: the research challenge and an education challenge. The education challenge called for NCAA members and private firms to develop educational programs and materials that could be implemented immediately. The six education challenge winners were also recognized at Friday’s Mind Matters event.

The NCAA-DOD Mind Matters Challenge research winners include:

Arizona State University

Changing the culture of concussion reporting among college athletes

This project aims to understand the attitudes among college athletes toward reporting concussion on three levels: vested interests they have in reporting or not reporting concussion symptoms; team culture regarding participation and reporting; and cultural narratives about college athletes and sports. The study will gather data through surveys, experiments, interviews and textual analysis with student-athletes. Researchers will use that information to design and test messages intended to improve concussion-reporting attitudes and behaviors.

“An athlete might have all the intention in the world of telling the athletic trainer about a possible concussion, but if a chance at making the big leagues or the Olympic team is telling them not to, the behavior might not follow,” said Steven Corman, director of the Center for Strategic Communication at Arizona State. “We think studying attitudes in the team and cultural contexts where they play out has the potential to make a big impact on keeping athletes safe.”

Colorado State University

Assessing and changing the culture of concussion reporting in middle and high school youth: A community collaborative approach

This study will be conducted in conjunction with six middle schools and high schools over three years. Assessments from students, athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, school administrators, teachers and parents will be gathered each year in the fall and spring. Statistical models will be used to create a viable measure of the culture of resistance toward reporting concussion. The study will also examine contextual factors associated with that culture and test whether the intervention processes can change it.

“Real and sustained change to complex social problems can be achieved by engaging key stakeholders,” said Doug Coatsworth, director of the Colorado State University Prevention Research Center. “The Mind Matters Challenge provides the opportunity to apply this approach to concussion reporting behavior, with the goal of affecting change.”

Northern Arizona University

Changing the culture of concussion reporting: A cultural analysis and implementation model

This project will investigate how organizational culture relates to concussion reporting among college athletes, coaches and staff. Intervention strategies will be developed from this analysis. The long-term goal is to better understand where, within the existing athletic culture, athletes, coaches and athletic trainers are able to make changes that increase student-athlete safety and well-being.

“With what other athletic injury do we ask the injured body part to assess itself to determine if it’s OK to keep playing?” asked Debbie Craig, program director of the athletic training education program at Northern Arizona. “Everyone must believe that it is OK to report concussions. This will be a significant cultural shift from the current American football culture. Our goal is to find ways to facilitate that shift.”

University of Georgia

Improving concussion reporting behaviors across NCAA member institutions

The study will determine the influence of student-athletes’ knowledge, attitudes, perceived behavioral control and social identity on reporting concussions. Based on these data, researchers will develop a population-specific concussion-reporting-intervention program. They will assess changes in concussion reporting behaviors to determine which approaches succeed.

“This research study will allow us to better understand factors across multiple sports, NCAA divisions, and a variety of stakeholders,” said Julianne Schmidt, an assistant professor in Georgia’s department of kinesiology.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Optimizing evidence-based strategies to increase sport-related concussion reporting by collegiate student-athletes

The goal of this study is to translate evidence-based factors that foster an increase in concussion symptom reporting into Web-based behavioral intervention tools. At the conclusion of this study, researchers hope to create an affordable and scalable behavioral intervention method for further evaluation.

“At present time, literature tells us that many student-athletes choose not to report potential concussive symptoms to a coach or other athletic personnel and this needs to change,” said Jeffrey Milroy, associate director of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Institute to Promote Health and Wellness. “We sincerely believe our research will contribute significantly to the field by developing a better understanding of underreporting of concussions and move us closer to disseminating effective behavioral interventions.”

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Concussion disclosure behaviors, attitudes, norms and knowledge in civilian and military emerging adults

This project will be based around an online interactive platform that provides a series of immersive training vignettes for college athletes and military personnel. This platform will be developed and tested among physically active civilian and military young adults to refine and produce a tool.

“While we work hard to prevent concussions, not every concussion will be prevented,” said Johna Register-Mihalik, an assistant professor in the department of exercise and sport science at North Carolina. “We are proposing an innovative strategy aimed at targeting organizational norms and individual beliefs to improve concussion disclosure.”

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Making it stick: A social marketing experiment

The experiment will examine the power of social marketing and design’s ability to influence the culture of concussion reporting among club sports athletes relative to existing concussion-centric content. Findings from this study will help researchers develop more effective educational interventions, as well as policy mandates.

“Sports concussion injuries have transcended from a ‘sports injury issue’ to a major public health concern,” said Dee Warmath, an assistant professor of consumer science at Wisconsin’s School of Human Ecology. “The multidisciplinary perspective of this study offers tremendous opportunity to leverage findings from several domains of consumer behavior.”

U.S. Air Force Academy

Changing the culture surrounding concussion at the U.S. Air Force Academy

Air Force’s environment offers unique opportunities to study concussions – including the factors influencing the decision to self-report one. Last summer, more than 2,500 cadets completed an anonymous survey regarding self-reporting concussions. That large dataset offers powerful insights and lessons that could be used to bolster concussion self-reporting throughout athletics and the military.

“The main goal of this project is to better understand why people choose to not report suffering from a concussion,” said Christopher D’Lauro, an assistant professor in Air Force’s department of behavioral sciences and leadership. “The better we understand the precise reasons for not reporting, the better we can address those concerns.”