Thursday, October 18 , 2018, 10:20 am | Fair 62º


Cottage Health System, SBCC Team Up to Study Impact Sports and Brain Injuries

Vaquero athletes to wear high-tech sensors to compile data needed for evaluation and identification of cause and effects

Santa Barbara City College football players are among the student athletes who will be wearing Triax Smart Impact Monitor meters to measure head impacts during games and practices this year. The pressure sensors, which fit like a sweatband, are expected to provide a treasure trove of data for SBCC and Cottage Health System to review. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara City College football players are among the student athletes who will be wearing Triax Smart Impact Monitor meters to measure head impacts during games and practices this year. The pressure sensors, which fit like a sweatband, are expected to provide a treasure trove of data for SBCC and Cottage Health System to review. (SBCC Courtesy Photo)

As researchers look for connections between impact sports and brain injuries, Cottage Health System and Santa Barbara City College have partnered up to better protect student athletes from harm.

The two institutions recently announced they’ve joined efforts in a new program to monitor injury impacts that Vaquero athletes sustain during games or practice.

The effort involves using Triax Smart Impact Monitor meters, which athletes will wear during practice and competition for the SBCC football, men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s soccer teams.

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital purchased 180 of the sensors, about $18,000 worth of equipment, to donate to the effort.

The program is being led by Dr. Stephen Kaminski, Cottage’s trauma services director, who already has visited a number of local schools, conducting seminars on the importance of brain injury awareness in connection with sports.

Brain injuries like concussions are the “signature injury that we see in patients” coming into the hospital’s trauma department, he said.

With student athletes, Kaminski explained, “an 18 year old may not have any problems cognitively, but the repetitive impacts may affect them later in life.”

He cited several high-profile cases, like that of Junior Seau, a star linebacker at USC and in the NFL who committed suicide in 2012. An autopsy revealed chronic brain damage similar to that of other deceased former professional football players.

Kaminski said SBCC Athletic Director Ryan Byrne reached out to him about five months ago and said the school was actively looking for ways to protect its athletes from injuries.

“They’ve tried to become very aware of the risks posed to the student athletes,” Kaminski said.

Byrne had looked into the pressure sensors, which measure impact sustained and fit around an athlete’s head like a sweatband.

At this point, it’s unknown if some people are more prone to brain injuries like concussions or if there is a threshold of impact with which a concussion will occur.

The SBCC effort will provide more information as researchers ponder those questions, Kaminski said.

The athletes will be examined at the beginning and end of the season to compare any changes, with visual and motor tests as well as MRIs conducted at UCSB’s Psychological and Brain Sciences Department.

SBCC is not alone in conducting such research. As many as 20 major universities are looking at force effects this year, but the local effort is one of the few reviewing the results with an MRI.

A concussion management plan will also include information about injury prevention and protocols on when athletes should be removed from and returned to the playing fields.

While Kaminski said “football is the poster child for traumatic injury,” researchers are also seeing comparable injuries in soccer players who head the ball.

Kaminski said girls are more prone to concussion in general when matched with similar impacts as boys, and with a high number of women playing soccer, the SBCC team was one they wanted to reach out to.

He said he expects to evaluate the data around the end of the school year in an effort to identify patterns.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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