Health sciences research showcased at American Athletic Conference symposium

The University of Tulsa played host to the American Athletic Conference Academic Consortium’s third-annual symposium on March 29-30, 2019. TU was robustly represented, with President Gerard Clancy delivering a keynote address and faculty members from across Oxley College of Health Sciences sharing their research.

Get up, get moving

The chair of Kinesiology and Rehabilitative Sciences, Eric Wickel, also took to the podium with a presentation on physical activity and cognitive performance among children. Because of the widely accepted principle that physical activity has a small positive effect on cognitive performance, researchers have implemented physical activity interventions throughout childhood in an effort to improve academic achievement.

Professor Eric Wickel
Professor Eric Wickel

“In addition,” Wickel observed, “evidence suggests the benefits of higher cognitive performance during childhood may also extend into adulthood. For example, several longitudinal studies report beneficial associations involving childhood cognitive performance with adult levels of employment, overall health, and life expectancy.” Despite the accumulating body of knowledge in this area, continued exploration, Wickel argued, is needed using objective assessment tools and rigorous study designs that account for confounding factors.

Wearable technologies: concussion monitoring

Rachel Hildebrand of the Department of Kinesiology and Rehabilitative Sciences and Laura Wilson from Communications Sciences and Disorders delivered a talk on the “Use of Wearable Technologies for Concussion Monitoring in Football.” This presentation arose from their larger interdisciplinary project examining the effects of repetitive head impacts, such as those sustained by athletes who play hockey, football, lacrosse, soccer and other sports. A principal goal of their interdisciplinary research has been to see whether those impacts, in the absence of concussion, affect players’ physical and cognitive behaviors.

Professors Laura Wilson and Rachel Hildebrand
Professors Laura Wilson and Rachel Hildebrand

Wearable technologies: analyzing recovery

Davis Hale and Portia Resnick, meanwhile, explored wearable technologies in terms of athlete recovery. Through a project funded by the American Athletic Conference, the two athletic training professors investigated biomarkers of recovery in TU football players.

Professor Davis Hale
Professor Davis Hale

They focused specifically on heart rate variability, resting heart rate and sleep duration. One of their key findings was that “big” stature players (OL, DL, LB and TE) were 29% less recovered than players of “skill” positions (QB, RB, WR and DB) during preseason summer training. The data Hale and Resnick gathered will by used by athletic performance staff to make training-based decisions for the upcoming summer and fall conditioning periods.

Professor Portia Resnick
Professor Portia Resnick

Floating, the brain and eating disorders

On the same panel as Wickel was Sahib Khalsa. The director of clinical studies at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research, Khalsa delivered a presentation entitled “The Neuroscience of Eating Disorders and the Impact of Float Sessions to Improve Symptoms.”