The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is proud to feature Kevin M. Guskiewicz, PhD, ATC, FACSM, who recently was named a 2011 MacArthur Fellow, an internationally prominent and prestigious award for his work in sport concussion, in this issue’s Clinician Profile. Dr. Guskiewicz is the Kenan Distinguished Professor and director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also serves as the chair of the Department of Exercise and Sport Science and holds joint appointments in the Department of Orthopaedics, University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Research Center, and Doctoral Program in Human Movement Science. Dr. Guskiewicz’s teaching responsibilities include Cadaver Anatomy, Therapeutic Modalities, Human Anatomy, and Research Methods and Statistics in Sports Medicine. During the past 17 years, Dr. Guskiewicz’s research has focused on sport-related concussion. He has investigated the effect of sport-related concussion on balance and neuropsychological function in high school and collegiate athletes and the long-term neurological issues related to playing sport. He also has been the recipient of 20 funded research grants and has published more than 75 journal articles and 6 textbook chapters related to concussion in sport. He was awarded fellowship in ACSM in 2003, the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education in 2006, and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association in 2008. In 2010, he was named to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Concussion Committee, the National Football League Players Association’s Mackey-White Committee, and the National Football League’s Head, Neck, and Spine Committee.
How Did Your Interest and Research in Sports Concussions Evolve?
I was studying balance and postural control at the University of Virginia as a doctoral student when I realized I needed a condition in which to apply the objective balance tests. My advisor (David H. Perrin, PhD, FACSM) had just attended a concussion summit and suggested that I consider applying it to concussion as an objective measure of readiness to return to play. Given that I had worked as a graduate assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to beginning my doctoral work and I always was perplexed by the arbitrary nature in which players often were returned following concussion, I saw this as a natural fit.
How Do You See the Current Landscape and Progress with Sports Concussions?
The landscape is changing quickly. A culture shift has been set in motion at every level of play, and the state concussion laws are creating an awareness around concussions that ultimately will — in combination with the excellent research being conducted nationwide — save lives.
What Do You Think Would Make the Most Difference in Preventing, Diagnosing, and Managing Mild Traumatic Brain Injury?
We need to educate parents, coaches, and athletes about the dangers of mismanaging concussion, and this all starts with ensuring that they understand the signs and symptoms of concussion and the importance of reporting these symptoms if they occur. In addition, we cannot rely on a quick fix such as a helmet to prevent concussive injuries. They do a great job of preventing catastrophic brain injuries but cannot manage totally the energy inside the skull to prevent concussions. Behavior modification, so as to minimize head contacts, must be considered in this equation to reduce concussions. Finally, we need to stay the course on trying to find interventions to treat concussions once they occur. There are several proposed therapies or interventions that may have promise but have not been researched adequately to prove their efficacy.
This Fall, You Were Named A 2011 MacArthur Fellow for Your Important Role in Raising Awareness about the Prevalence and Dangers of Sports-Related Brain Injuries. What Did You Think when the MacArthur Foundation Called?
I thought, “Wow, I am one lucky person who has been very fortunate to be surrounded by so many great people during my career.”
MacArthur Fellows Each Receive $500,000 in No-Strings-Attached Support during the Next 5 Years. How Do You Plan to Use This Monetary Award from the MacArthur Foundation?
A significant portion of the award will be turned back into our research at the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center. I hope to receive matching funds from a variety of foundations interested in funding our work, and part of these investigations will extend beyond sport-related concussion and move into helping our U.S. military better understand the prevention and treatment of concussion.