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Expert Alert.

Expert Alert

U of M experts available to discuss fall sports injury issues

September 12, 2012

The fall sports season is upon us and the University of Minnesota has experts who are working on a number of important issues facing professional, amateur and youth athletes.

The effects of multiple sports-related concussions on neurocognition and cerebral vascular function.

Donald Dengel, Ph.D., associate professor, School of Kinesiology

Dengel and his team have been awarded a grant from NFL Charities to study the effects of multiple sports-related concussions on neurocognition and cerebral vascular function. “We have developed a new ability for an MRI to show us how blood vessels in the brain are functioning in individuals who have suffered multiple sports-related concussions,” said Dengel. “Understanding the function level of the blood vessels allows us to correlate that to cognitive function. This grant is a stepping stone to move this research to the next level.” This is the first University of Minnesota study that has received a NFL Charities grant.

Proper fit of football helmet and preventing concussions

Heather Bergeson, M.D., pediatrics and sports medicine, Medical School

When it comes to helmets and mouth guards, University of Minnesota Physicians orthopedic specialist Heather Bergeson, M.D. ,C.A.Q., of TRIA Orthopaedic Center has some simple advice: Wear them!

Helmets help protect your head from structural damage so it’s important that they fit properly. One common misconception about helmets is that they can prevent concussions. While they can’t reduce the risk of concussions entirely, helmets reduce the transmission of the force of the blow to the brain; they help prevent structural injuries such as skull fractures.

Concussions and women athletes

Nicole LaVoi and Diane Wiese-Bjornstal, Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport

Critical issues and unanswered questions surrounding the impact of concussions on women athletes has been largely ignored, according to LaVoi and Wiese-Bjornstal. Are women as or even more susceptible to concussion than men? Are women athletes less likely than men to report a concussion? LaVoi and Wiese-Bjornstal were part of a team that produced an Emmy®-nominated documentary that examines the causes of concussion and offers practical solutions to help prevent and treat sports-related concussion injuries in women athletes.

Importance of wearing mouth guards

James Gambucci, D.D.S., M.P.H., associate professor, School of Dentistry

Mouth guards can help prevent structural damage that can result from contact during sports, says Gambucci. He can also discuss the importance of a well-fitted mouth guard for athletes to wear during competition.

Junk food and youth sports

Toben Nelson, Sc.D., assistant professor of epidemiology, School of Public Health

Junk food and food with little nutritional value is pervasive in youth sports.  Between crazy schedules and the assumption that kids are burning off calories they take in, junk food is becoming the norm at sporting events and on the way to or from games or practices.  But according to Toben, this is a real problem that could have long-term public health and obesity implications.

Ligament injuries; muscle ligament damage

Jeffery Macalena, M.D., assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery, Medical School

Injuries to ligaments and/or muscles may not impact athletes in the short-term, but Macalena says those effects can last a lifetime.

For interviews with experts listed below, please contact Steve Henneberry, University News Service,, 612-624-1690

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit Views expressed by experts do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

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