Our Research

Howell Concussion Lab

The overarching goal of our research is to evaluate quantitative measures that are capable of identifying neurological deficits following a concussion, their physiologic underpinnings, and their long-term consequences. By monitoring recovery and determining biological predictors of long-term outcomes following a concussion, we are working towards establishing a framework to better understand effective methods to allow athletes with a concussion to reintegrate back into safe sport participation. Our work primarily focuses on the following areas of concussion research.

Movement Deficits Following Concussion

Concussion has been documented to affect gait and postural control, however many of the techniques used in clinical practice rely on subjective evaluative methods. We are working on ways to quantify motor performance, particularly under dual-task conditions, as an assessment approach to determine sports readiness following a concussion. Through our work, we hope to translate our findings from the laboratory to clinical settings.

Musculoskeletal Injury Risk after Concussion

Since neuromuscular and neurocognitive deficits are risk factors for musculoskeletal injury independent of head trauma, persistent motor and/or cognitive impairments after a concussion may lead to an increased orthopedic injury risk upon returning to sport. We aim to identify potential predictors of this increased injury risk to establish appropriate intervention strategies. 

Brain – Behavior Interrelationships after Concussion

Traditional neuroimaging cannot identify post-concussion alterations. Thus, we have used Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy to identify clinically unrecognized deficits and quantify the relationship between brain neurometabolic concentrations and functional outcomes (e.g. gait).  

Concussion Prognosis

Prognostic techniques for adolescent concussion are not well established. Thus, we have investigated how several different factors can predict recovery duration when used within the first week of injury, using clinical and biomechanical assessment approaches.  

Concussion Rehabilitation

Although once suggested that a period of physical rest after a concussion until symptoms resolve was the best method to facilitate recovery, our work and the work of others suggest that the cessation of physical activity may contribute to the development of symptoms. We are now working on projects aimed to engage youth athletes in physical activity and aerobic exercise soon after sustaining a concussion.

Differences between Boys and Girls after Concussion

Understanding the individual factors that affect patient outcomes following a concussion is a crucial aspect to identifying effective management and treatment strategies. Among these individual factors, we are working to understand the sex-specific processes that occur following a concussion, leading to more effective therapeutic approaches and prevention strategies.

Sleep Problems after Concussion

A complex pathophysiological process occurs following a concussion, leading a variety of different clinical presentations. Recent evidence suggests that sleep is a factor that is not only commonly impaired following a concussion, but also negatively influences the recovery process.

Neck Dysfunction and Pain after Concussion

Symptoms following concussion can also be caused by dysfunction in the cervical spine, vestibular system, and oculomotor system. Our work incorporates assessments in these areas to understand the interplay between the systems and the impact on persistent symptoms.