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June 20, 2016

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When Laura Fedy walked across the stage on June 14 at Laurier’s Faculty of Science convocation ceremony in Waterloo, she did so with a strong sense of purpose.

Laura has spent the majority of her undergraduate degree learning, teaching and researching concussions, an injury to the brain that is still surrounded by misunderstanding in the science community.

Laura’s work has already garnered headlines locally, but this fall she will be stepping onto the international stage.

In October, Laura will travel to Berlin, Germany to present her research at a conference alongside her supervisor, Laurier Associate Professor in Kinesiology and Physical Education Michael Cinelli.

Laura found her passion quite accidentally. She answered a call for volunteers from TeamUp Against Concussions Laurier and discovered the world of myth that surrounds concussions.

Determined to shed some light on the highly controversial injury, Laura focused her undergraduate research and fourth-year thesis on the topic.

“It was shocking to realize how little people knew about concussions,” said Laura. “I couldn’t believe all the lack of information on treatment. I decided that this is what I wanted to do for a career.”

Working alongside Cinelli, Laura dove into the current research around concussion recovery and rehabilitation. Cinelli’s research already focused on balance recovery after concussions, so Laura dug deeper into existing research, but found a huge gap in the findings.

“In the majority of the research, it states that balance control recovers after 72 hours,” said Laura. “We wanted to look into that and how practitioners are assessing balance.”

Her research examines two aspects of concussion recovery: does balance control recover at 72 hours and correspond with symptom recovery, as current research states, and what are the best tools to determine balance control recovery?

Their study made it clear that balance wasn’t guaranteed to recover with symptom recovery.

“We saw many people who weren’t feeling symptoms of the concussion anymore, but their balance still wasn’t recovered,” said Laura. “This also means that they may continue to have balance problems into the future that they may not necessarily link to their concussion.”

Another challenge was in the assessment of balance recovery. Currently, clinics aren’t equipped with the kind of technology that accurately assesses an individual’s balance. Clinicians are often left to determine subjectively if balance control has been regained, leaving a huge gap in the consistency of treatment.

“We used a force-plate, like a Wii fit board, to find more accurate results for balance control recovery,” said Laura. “We were seeing people who have been cleared who still show balance deficits in our tests.”

The solution is complex and one that Laura is determined to lead.

“Everyone is different and every concussion is unique, so we need to treat it that way by individually baseline testing each athlete,” said Laura. “I hope to establish a centre for anyone, not just varsity or professional athletes, to be baseline tested. By doing this, when someone is injured we will know when they are fully recovered.”

Laura credits Laurier’s small, intimate campus for helping her find her passion.

“I knew I liked Laurier because of the small size, it meant there were more opportunities for one-on-one attention and hands-on learning,” said Laura. “Getting to work with Dr. Cinelli so closely meant I was able to accomplish so much. It means a lot that a professor would take the time to help students get where we want to go.”

Laura and Cinelli will attend “The Fifth International Consensus Conference on Concussions in Sport,” Oct 27-28 in Berlin, Germany. Laura will present a poster of her research, which will be published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

She will continue to work on completing and publishing her paper, while also applying to graduate school in 2017.

Read more on Michael Cinelli’s research.

This research was supported by the Research Support Fund.


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