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Partnering with Michigan Athletics

The Concussion Center has offered baseline testing in collaboration with Michigan Athletics since 2018. This year, we continue our endeavor to gain valuable data and reinforce our commitment to student-athletes on campus and our research community.

By conducting these tests, we create a benchmark against which athletic trainers and clinicians can measure any potential changes in an athlete’s condition following a head injury. These objective measures are drawn from some of the most advanced concussion assessment and management protocols for athletes, such as the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT6)

“This is my first year participating in concussion baseline testing at U-M and I’ve come to appreciate its necessity and vitality in ensuring the safe return to play for athletes of all ages”, said Michaela Broadnax, Research Laboratory Manager. 

We had a great group of team members this summer, with a wide range of research and community health interests and backgrounds. Matthew Morley, Clinical Research Coordinator of the Concussion Center leads the team’s effort this year. He noted that several undergraduate and graduate students who were trained as facilitators are studying in the fields of neuroscience, kinesiology, molecular physiology, social work, and sports medicine. The experience continues to provide new students valuable hands-on training as testing facilitators, exposing them to vital, real-world applications in athletics and sports medicine. 

“The experience this year has been very rewarding. It’s given me valuable insight into the Michigan Athletics community and their tireless dedication to the health, safety, and well-being of the student-athletes” said Morely. 

“There was no question. The minute I got the acceptance here, I knew I was coming to Ann Arbor”. Those were the words of Sabrina Vega back in August 2021 when she started her master’s program in molecular and integrative physiology at the University of Michigan. Vega came to the university after completing a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in public health from the University of Georgia, hoping to one day go to medical school. 

She grew up in Carmel, New York, about an hour and a half outside of “The Big Apple” and at the age of four, began taking gymnastics classes. With a dream to become an Olympian, she would spend the next eight years training as a gymnast, and entering sixth grade, would move to homeschool to allow for a schedule that fit her training and competitive goals.

Over the next decade, through hard work, focus, and determination, Vega would find herself traveling all over the world competing as an elite gymnast. She held a spot on the USA national team for 5 years and helped the team win a world championship in 2011. After taking part in the 2012 Olympic trials shortly after, Vega fell victim to a few injuries and decided to leave elite gymnastics in pursuit of her academic career. 

After applying to a few colleges and being offered a handful of scholarships, she chose to become a Bulldog at UGA because of their legacy of NCAA athletics and an academic environment that would be a stepping stone to becoming a doctor. Vega still competed and was a 5x All-American, but was able to focus more on enjoying gymnastics instead of it seeming like a job. Following graduation, she began applying to master’s programs and would eventually end up at the University of Michigan.

After grad school, she spent a year working at Michigan Medicine as a patient care technician where she gained valuable experience that would add to her academic resume, and would later seek out an opportunity that could bridge the gap between gymnastics and medicine to satisfy her desire to give back to that community. That’s when she stumbled upon an article featuring Steven Broglio, Director of the Concussion Center, that focused on the rate of concussions in gymnasts.

Vega sent out a few cold emails to the Concussion Center and eventually found the opportunity she was looking for. In the summer of 2023, she began working with the Concussion Center doing research related to concussions in gymnasts, while also helping out with concussion baseline testing offered through the center.

Vega is currently applying to medical schools and hopes to start that journey in 2024. She currently resides in the Ann Arbor area with her dog, Loki, and can’t wait for the fall weather so she can break out the cozy sweaters and watch the vibrant colors of Michigan. She hopes to inspire future student-athletes to explore the STEM field, as many shy away from the sciences because of the added difficulty in that space, especially when focusing on athletics.

With nearly 4 million concussions each year, it’s crucial to maintain our focus on acknowledging, supporting, and raising awareness about mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI). Beyond symptom recognition, it’s equally important to highlight the numerous options for individuals and families seeking rehabilitation after a concussion. As is often the case with injuries, receiving the appropriate care at the right time can significantly impact the journey toward a successful recovery.

In 2016, Brooke Mills, having personally experienced the need for greater concussion awareness years earlier, started her mission. What began as a friendly gym-class game became a lengthy battle with post-concussion symptoms. This journey ultimately led Mills to establish what we now recognize as National Concussion Awareness Day.

Designated on the third Friday of September, National Concussion Awareness Day was created to elevate the conversation surrounding concussions on a national scale. Supporters of this cause engage in various activities, such as fundraising for charities, sharing their stories on social media, and organizing events to demonstrate solidarity with those affected by mild traumatic brain injuries.

“Concussions do not need to stop you from living your best life, and the team at the University of Michigan Concussion Center is focused on not only helping better understand concussive injuries through advanced medical research, but also providing care to those that sustain the injury” said Dr. Steve Broglio, Director, U-M Concussion Center.

We invite you to join forces with the Concussion Center and countless others across the nation in acknowledging this significant day. Get out, spread awareness within your communities, and make a difference.

The University of Michigan Concussion Center invites nominations and applications for two tenure-track faculty positions to work at one of the world’s preeminent research institutions. As one of the highest-ranked public universities in the nation, the Concussion Center is an international leader in research, clinical care, and education.

●  One faculty position is open rank (Assistant, Associate or full Professor)

●  One faculty position is at the Assistant Professor rank 

We are seeking passionate concussion researchers to help the center by developing and sharing groundbreaking ideas that translate laboratory, clinic, and community observations into knowledge products that reduce concussion risk and improve outcomes in those affected by the injury.  The Concussion Center integrates our research, clinical, outreach & engagement cores to create novel solutions that advance concussion knowledge and protocols.  All research domains related to concussion will be considered, including candidates focusing on social and cultural health disparities in concussion prevention, identification, and management.

As the hub of concussion-related activity for the U-M community, the Concussion Center is proud to be located in a renovated facility in the heart of the Ann Arbor campus, with immediate access to clinical research and wet lab space.

U-M School of Kinesiology Building, where the Concussion Center is housed.
U-M School of Kinesiology Building, where the Concussion Center is housed.

Founded in 1817, the University of Michigan has a long and distinguished history as one of the first public universities in the nation. It is one of only two public institutions consistently ranked among the nation’s top ten universities.  With more than $1.7 billion in annual research expenditures, U-M has the second largest research expenditure among all universities in the nation, in addition to an annual general fund budget of $2.8 billion and an endowment valued at more than $17 billion. Adjacent to the central campus, Michigan Medicine, with its hospitals, clinics, and satellite offices, along with the Medical School, and School of Nursing, comprise one of the finest health systems in the country.  The university’s prominent athletic programs and outstanding teaching and research programs in medicine, engineering, and other related disciplines provide ideal collaborative opportunities for center faculty.