On Monday, Feb. 22, Dr. Kristi Erdal, professor of psychology, presented “Concussion: It’s Not Just for the NFL Anymore.” The event, sponsored by the ORC and Wellness Resource Center, covered what concussions are, signs and symptoms, and how to recover.

Kristi Erdal has conducted research on athletes’ malingering neuropsychological baseline tests and how these affect return-to-play decisions post-concussion. This has combined her interests in sports psychology and neuropsychology.

In the past she has conducted clinical research in depression and anxiety in Parkinson’s disease, and on cross-cultural issues in depression and its treatment. She has also conducted experimental research in sport superstition and the malingering of head injury.

During the 45-minute talk, Dr. Erdel covered the mechanics of concussions and explained the effects on neurons in your brain. She carefully explained symptoms and went through a step-by-step on how to recover.

“As a member of the women’s rugby team, I found it very important that we all attended together. Unless the concussion is really severe it won’t show up on an MRI,” said sophomore Rani Corak. “You need to know the signs and symptoms to recognize a concussion for yourself. Part of the talk was on second impact syndrome. If you keep playing with a concussion, your brain can swell and some people have died. For me, the talk stressed the importance of care, protecting your brain, and the crucial role of self-reporting.”

The talk delved into the use of ImPACT, which is a baseline test for athletes to take. This measures their normal brain activity so that after they have been hit in the head, there is a conclusive test to know if there is damage.

In a recent study by Dr. Erdal, a group of 75 male and female collegiate athletes who had previously taken the ImPACT baseline test attempted to set a low baseline score without triggering the Validity Index. Of the 75 students, the index correctly identified 89 percent of the sample.

“The data suggests that ‘sandbagging’ the baseline, even under conditions involving motivation, instruction, and experience with the test, is difficult to accomplish without being detected,” said Erdal.

This may be helpful in being able to “catch” college students who have been instructed to attempt to set a low baseline without getting caught in order to continue playing even with concussions.

“I thought the talk was useful, especially since I’ve already had one,” said sophomore Leah Ciffolillo. “I didn’t even know my concussion was that bad because I didn’t lose consciousness or vomit. I played through it until I was standing on the sidelines and suddenly couldn’t see. I was concussed for two and a half months.”

Ciffolillo continued: “The emotional aspect of having a concussion was definitely the toughest. I couldn’t take a class. It can make you sad and irritable. It also messes with your memory. Now, I know to take them seriously. I think the talk was important, especially for people who’ve never had a concussion before. It’s important to know how to recognize them and to know the emotional as well as physical side-effects.”

“I feel a lot dumber now than I did before having any. I’ve had close to seven concussions and each one makes me feel slower to respond, less articulate and less ‘clear’ when I think,” said sophomore CJ Thomson on his experience with concussions. “Things seem a lot hazier than before the concussions.”

He continued: “I cannot medically play contact sports now. I cannot do anything that may result in a concussion, even skiing. Concussions are hard to avoid if you put yourself in a situation where you might get them, but you should be responsible. Wear helmets, go to talks like this one, and be involved in ensuring your own health.”

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