Some of the members of the Northland Pines girls soccer team met with Traci Snedden last week to be fitted with headgear as part of a concussion study by the University of Wisconsin. The headgear is free. —Staff Photo By DOUG ETTEN
Some of the members of the Northland Pines girls soccer team met with Traci Snedden last week to be fitted with headgear as part of a concussion study by the University of Wisconsin. The headgear is free. —Staff Photo By DOUG ETTEN
Sports injuries in general have become a world of their own at the high school level.

One former Northland Pines student and current University of Wisconsin medical professional is hoping to change that as she will study concussion prevention in hopes that more high school athletes can avoid lingering head injuries.

Most recently a focus nationally on brain health, particularly related to concussions, has helped prevention, diagnosis and post-concussion protocol gain momentum within a number of Wisconsin school districts.

Northland Pines jumped on the bandwagon, and with the help of Traci Snedden has their girls soccer team taking part in a UW-Madison study meant to study concussion prevention.

The study will be fully funded by a $300,000 grant from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment and will be the first to provide rigorous, scientific evidence to guide clinical recommendations about the use of protective headgear to reduce sport-related concussions in adolescent soccer players.

Supported by Snedden, a 1985 Northland Pines graduate and nurse scientist/researcher with the University of Wisconsin School of Nursing, the collaborative study will focus on the benefit of wearing headgear in high school soccer.

“The goal of this study is to determine whether or not there is a benefit,” Snedden said. “The findings will help all stakeholders including players, parents, coaches, school administrators and policy makers. It will help them make decisions based on strong scientific evidence.”

Snedden said when it comes to preventing concussions, researchers studying football and hockey get the majority of both media coverage and research dollars.

But a new study by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health will examine the efficacy of using headgear for athletes in soccer, which she says is a relatively overlooked sport at the high school level

“Eventually, we hope to implement and test evidence-based strategies that inform policy at the school district level in Wisconsin,” she said. “There are a number of medical professionals who are looking for an inexpensive, effective and sustainable way of preventing head injuries to young athletes.”

Players at Northland Pines were fitted last week with headgear, all 100% free of charge as part of the grant.

In total Snedden said researchers will enroll 3,000 male and female high school soccer players ages 14 to 18 from 88 Wisconsin high schools for the 2016-’17 and 2017-’18 school years.

Half of the schools will be assigned to the intervention group, which will require players to wear protective soccer headgear for all practices and competitions throughout their competitive season. Schools in the control group will be allowed to practice and compete without the protective gear.

“Enrollees will complete a baseline questionnaire to provide information about their age, competition level, number of years playing competitive soccer and previous history,” Snedden said.

The current case study follows a 2016 program that was partnered by Snedden and UW regarding the effects of concussions on academic performance among 200 Madison-area high school athletes.

“Right now, there is an overwhelming amount of media attention on the issue at the college and professional level,” Snedden told the Wisconsin State Journal. “There is a substantial gap in our knowledge about what is going on with concussion at the high school level and younger.”

The study in 2016 was to explore the effects of concussions on learning and school performance, with an overall goal of getting a snapshot of academic issues over time.

Snedden said she hopes with the current preventative study they can stop head injuries from ever happening, and shed a light on increasing preventative measures.

“Little is known about equipment that is being marketed to players and coaches that may positively or negatively influence a player’s risk of getting concussed,” she said. “It’s important to expand this knowledge.”