SGG #70: Dr. Alison Brooks studies concussions in sports
Author Bryan Stevenson observed that, “You can't understand most of the important things from a distance...You have to get close.” SGG's "Football in Wisconsin" special series gets close to football through conversations with coaches, competitors, and others connected with the game in the Badger state. We aim to deepen our understandings of coaching -- and of football's impact on and off the field.
Dr. M. Alison Brooks is a professor in the Department of Orthopedics in the Division of Sports Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She played college soccer for one of the all-time college sports dynasties: the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. She is currently a team physician for several UW sports teams and the Associate Director of Concussion and Nutrition Research for the Badger Athletic Performance Program. She joined the SGG podcast to discuss groundbreaking concussion research and football. We discussed:
1. The role sports played in her life growing up.
2. The importance of kids having structure in their days.
3. Studying and playing soccer at the University of North Carolina.
4. How she ended up pursuing sports medicine.
5. What makes the concussion study unique, including its size: 45,000+ participants.
6. An important finding: when athletes delay reporting of their head injury, it costs them more time in the long-run. “They have more severe symptoms and they take longer to get better.”
7. Another important finding: longer return to play times may result in less frequent repeat concussions.
8. The majority of athletes who suffer concussions in sports probably don’t develop CTE.
9. Just having athletes sit and rest for long periods of time isn’t best for recovery. More pro-active rehab approaches are better, including exercise for treatment.
10. We don’t yet have a definitive test that says, “You have a concussion.”
11. How do you go about behavior change to better address brain injuries in sports? “It starts with the coach.”
12. Developing a healthy team culture around head injuries.
13. “I think we have to be careful about focusing on only the negative and only the risks. Sometimes that gets lost in the discussion…There are research documented benefits of sports…Including reduced risk-taking behavior and leadership, self-esteem, and confidence.”
14. “There are ways we can reduce risks.”
15. “There’s not a reason to have lots of contact to the head at a young age.”
16. Evidence that cumulative number of head impacts (“hit count”) matters.
17. The joy of working with Wisconsin student-athletes.
18. The UW athletics administration having the student’s best interest in mind.