OU Prof Focuses On Athletic Head Injury Research

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Ohio University is becoming a major player on the national scene in athletic head injury research and Dr. Brian Ragan is leading the way.

Ragan, assistant professor of athletic training at Ohio University, has both a personal and a professional interest in studying concussions among athletes.

While Ragan was working on his doctoral dissertation at OU, his advisor’s son got a concussion from a football game and Ragan now spends his professional time researching and collecting data about concussions among college-age and young athletes.

The boy's injury was substantial and he was symptomatic for almost a month.

Ragan's work is timely in the wake of the shocking death of former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau from a self-inflicted gun wound to the chest and the suicide of Dave Duerson, a retired cornerback for the Chicago Bears.

Critical research on athletic head injuries is being done at Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy.

Researchers at the Center are examining the short-term and the long-term impact of repeated head blows to football and hockey players.

Other universities are also researching head injury management and prevention techniques, including Ragan here at Ohio University.

Ragan is using a multi-pronged statistical analysis to measure the effectiveness of current medical tests for concussions.  

For the past eight years, Ragan has dedicated his research to concussions and he has no intention of stopping any time soon.

“We are just beginning to try to quantify concussions and while the functional measures are evolving, when you talk about long-term consequences, that’s what is still being ignored,” he said.

Recently, Ragan was awarded a geospatial faculty fellowship, which he is using to create a multi-pronged approach that examines how we actually use concussion tests to make decisions about athletes.

“We want to evaluate each item like you would if you were administering an educational test or a licensing exam,” he said.

Ragan along with one doctoral student, 12 graduate students, and six undergraduates are currently working with hundreds of participants in various concussion studies.

In one particular study that began last spring, Ragan is using objective measuring devices such as GPS systems to monitor people post-concussion by tracking where and when they go places, how active they are and what they are doing.

By studying male and female club sports athletes at Ohio University, as well as athletes in a variety of sports from Marietta College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Ragan hopes to use the data he collects to more accurately measure recovery. 

Jordan Brogley Webb is an Ohio University Honors Tutorial Student.  This is the first of a four-part weekly series focusing on athletic injuries.