MSN Student Investigates Brain Injuries

by Kathryn Sill, Public Relations Writer

Student-athletes who compete in high-contact sports may be at risk for serious head injuries. And, according to a recent study conducted by Hillary Oaks, a recent graduate of Cedarville University’s Master of Science in Nursing program, the seriousness of Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (MTBI) is being underreported.

In Oaks’ study of 43 male high school football athletes, she looked at the effectiveness of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Pre-Participation Exam (OHSAA PPE) form to accurately identify the history of MTBIs. She discovered students were not accurately completing the form or sharing correct history of concussions or MTBIs. 

In Oaks study, she found that when compared to the Ohio State University Traumatic Brain Injury-short form questionnaire (OSU TBI-SF), the reporting of MTBI’s on the OHSAA PPE, was significantly underreported. For example, while the OSU TBI-SF indicated that 49 percent of athletes reported a previous MTBI, only 16 percent reported a past MTBI on the OHSAA PPE. According to Oaks study, for the past three years (2010-June, 2013) the number one injury in all high school sports is head concussions. 

“If this one area of the PPE that we’re finding is lacking in underreporting, what other things are being missed by this?” Oaks asked. “Are we missing cardiac illnesses? Are we missing eating disorders? What other big things are we missing or not screening appropriately in these athletes?” 

Oaks warns that for athletes planning to go onto the college level or professional level, they need to know the importance of following the protocol of returning to play if they do suffer from a concussion. Oaks encourages athletes, parents and coaches to educate themselves on the consequences of concussions because brain injuries can grow in severity.

“It [MTBI] is something that is caused by any kind of direct impact to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain, so it is not only contact,” Oaks said. “It can be a car injury, it can be whiplash, it can be anything and it doesn’t have to be the severest motion or severest trauma that can cause it.”

Oaks currently works at Miami Valley Hospital as a cardiovascular nurse.

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 3,620 undergraduate, graduate and online students in more than 100 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings and leading student satisfaction ratings.