Soccer Players at Mississippi College Participate in UMMC Clinical Trial
Coach Darryl Longabaugh remains pumped as he enters his 20th season as leader of the Mississippi College Lady Choctaws soccer team.
“I’m excited,” says Longabaugh, one of the premier coaches in the Gulf South Conference. He’s not just fired up about the promising 2018 season on the field ahead. Longabaugh is thrilled his talented squad will participate in a first-of-its kind clinical trial by a research team at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
A $30,000 grant from UMMC’s Neuro Institute will make the research possible. The work involves 75 MC student-athletes on the men’s and women’s soccer teams. The month-long trial on the Clinton campus began August 11.
If a college soccer player has good reflexes and motor skills that help with movement on the field, it could be a factor whether or not they take a hit resulting in a concussion, UMMC officials say.
The clinical trial also seeks to discover if their sensory abilities impacting movement can be adjusted for the better on the front end to lessen their chances of concussion. In addition, UMMC researchers seek to allow players to recover better and more quickly if they do suffer a concussion.
Nationwide, players, coaches and fans are increasingly aware of the dangers of sports injuries, from elementary school through the professional ranks. Reports show that one of every five high school athletes across the USA sustains sports-related concussions.
Longabaugh says the UMMC findings will be valuable for all 36 players on his team plus the coaches. “In soccer, we use our heads a lot,” and players often hit the ground during games, he said.
While concussions involving football players – from high school through the NFL – get plenty of media attention, injuries for soccer players happen quite often, too, Longabaugh says.
The UMMC researchers aim to evaluate the effectiveness of aggressive physical therapy as “sensorimotor” training.
“We’re taking healthy athletes, who have had a concussion in the past or not, and seeing if we can fine-tune their sensorimotor system,” says Dr. Jennifer Reneker, UMMC associate professor of physical therapy. “I believe if they have any underlying impairments, we can remedy that and decrease their risk of injury.”
Lady Choctaws soccer players like Sam Carson, 22, of England give the project a thumbs up. “I really did not think about concussions until I came here,” says the Mississippi College senior and exercise science major. In soccer games and practices, “quite often I use my head.”
It’s pretty cool, Carson said, to be part of this new research initiative linking the body with her favorite sport.
MC junior Lauren Kate Carter, 20, of Tupelo plays the position of midfielder on the Lady Choctaws squad. She’s delighted to participate in the research. “I love it,” says the Tupelo High graduate. “I’m really into science and physical therapy.”
In recent years, Lauren Kate used her head in soccer games for the Tupelo High Golden Wave team at Tupelo High and at MC. “It is dangerous, no doubt. But we all have a passion to win.”
The UMMC trial is officially called “Sensorimotor Training for Injury Prevention in Collegiate Soccer Players” and is gaining positive national exposure on ClinicalTrials.gov.
Like Longabaugh, Kevin Johns, the successful men’s soccer coach at Mississippi College, applauds the UMMC research.
“This will help us,” says freshman Carlos Hernandez, 18, of Spain. He’s a midfielder on the MC men’s soccer team.
At the trial’s start, Dr. Reneker and her team performed baseline testing on soccer players that examined movement control of their eyes, and ability to use specific muscles in their neck in a controlled way. The students will be tested following the four weeks of training to see if there’s improvement. Mississippi College players also will be given homework exercises via video instruction on their cell phones.