High school football is off and running for this fall, but for some parents, fears about the effects of repetitive head impacts may prevent them from allowing their children to play. To address those fears and provide parents with strong data to make informed decisions, Indiana University researchers Kei Kawata and Jesse Steinfeldt are studying more than 100 Indiana high school players. They are gathering information about the effects of sub-concussive impacts, an impact that falls below the threshold of a full concussion. Kawata explains that the research team monitors data from head impacts using a specially configured mouth guard worn by the players. The researchers are also collecting brain health data using MRI scans, blood samples and functional examinations such as eye movement tests. The goal, Kawata says, is to establish baselines for how many hits are generally safe or unsafe. By identifying what level of hit may lead to a chronic problem vs. what level of hit can be safe, the researchers say they will be able to provide data that substantiates what should be done to mitigate repetitive head impact risk in the future. And in addition, Steinfeldt says, the study may also broaden academic and career horizons for the young athletes involved by exposing them to areas of sports-related science they may never have encountered before.
In other news, a new statewide survey conducted by IUPUI, the Indiana Department of Health and the Indiana Department of Education finds that only 44.8% of parents and caregivers of Indiana school-age children have vaccinated or will be vaccinating their children. The survey also determined that 13% of parents and caregivers want to wait and see the effects of the vaccine before vaccinating their child, while 42% said they will not vaccinate their child or will only do so if required. Researchers surveyed over 10,000 Hoosier parents and caregivers, which represents over 20,000 students enrolled in Indiana schools. Nir Menachemi, the lead IUPUI researcher for the study, says the survey results show that a lot of parents view the COVID-19 vaccination as risky, even riskier than the disease itself. According to the survey, caregivers in the "wait and see" category were more concerned about the effects of the vaccine on their child than protecting vulnerable populations or getting back to normal. But the survey also showed that a recommendation from a trusted health care provider could be a strong motivator for these caregivers to vaccinate their child. Based on the survey findings, the researchers developed recommendations to policymakers for increasing vaccination, including fewer mass media campaigns and more targeted, community-based work that better incorporates trusted health care providers. Understanding the public's response to vaccine adoption is important, the researchers say, for generating effective interventions to address vaccine hesitancy.