In an effort to improve the College’s concussion education program, Associate Director of Health Promotion Whitney Hogan and Director of Athletic Training Dan Davies met with a group of student athletes yesterday. The meetin gave Hogan and Davies an opportunity to hear students’ thoughts on the effectiveness of the College’s current concussion education programs and to hear their suggestions for the future of the program. 

A group of upperclassmen were selected to participate in the meeting from sports teams that may be more susceptible to concussions. Though all student athletes participate in a concussion education program every fall, the athletic department is always looking for ways to keep the material fresh and relevant.

“My hope for the meeting is that if we decide to do any additional education it can be student-driven and student-directed,” said Hogan. “It will depend on what the students want.”

Evan Fencik ’17, a member of the women’s soccer team, attended the meeting. Prior to the meeting, she discussed suggestions for improvement in the way the College educates athletes in the treatment and prevention of concussions. 

In high school, Fencik worked closely with Chris Nowinski, the founder of Sports Legacy Institute—a non-profit focusing on treatment and prevention of head trauma in athletes—and a former professional wrestler. She would like to apply some of the things she learned working with Nowinski to improving concussion education at Bowdoin. Fencik would also like the College to work on bringing Nowinski to Bowdoin as a speaker and to screen the documentary “Head Games.”

All Bowdoin athletes undergo baseline impact testing before being cleared to play. These tests are used as reference points when determining when it is safe for athletes to return to full activity. Students are required to return to full academic activity before returning to athletics. 

While Fencik believes that the Bowdoin Athletic Department does a good job treating students with concussions and helping them recover, she believes they could improve on their prevention programing.

“I think it’s great that we have the education, and it’s pretty informative,” said Fencik. “But it’s just not presented in a way that really shakes athletes and lets them know that concussions are a very serious issue.”

This meeting also comes on the heels of a larger NCAA initiative, which has made several grants available to colleges for the purpose of promoting concussion education on their campuses. Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan said that while determining ways to expand concussion education with the help of an NCAA grant is one of the goals of the meeting, the discussion will be very much driven by what students want to see from the education.

“We’re not going into this with any preconceived thoughts,” said Ryan. “It’s more an opportunity for us to meet and talk with students and gather their feedback with the hope of being able to enhance our educational programming.”

The number of concussions on athletic teams have been relatively consistent for the last three years, going from 62 in 2011-12 to 69 in 2012-13 and 60 in 2013-14. Concussions are an issue for all athletic teams, not just the ones typically associated with concussions. The 60 concussions in 2014 were spread over 17 different athletic teams.  

Ryan also said that he recognizes that concussions are a challenge for all students on campus, not only student athletes. 

“A lot of our education has been focused on student athletes,” said Ryan. “[But] it’s an issue that impacts everyone on campus. The more education we can do in the community, the better off we’re going to be.”