Odyssey Scholars » Elise


Elise (Senior) - Correlation between Sports-Related Injuries to Ankles/Knees
and Changes to the Brain

February went by in a flash. I did a lot of the same things: research, email people.

Even though much of what I did was the same, I do have some new--and somewhat interesting--news to share! I got an interview out of the country with a researcher from the UK. Dr. Smith was involved in publications and research involving what’s known as tCDS. This stands for Transcutaneous Direct Stimulation and is being tested for use treating a variety of conditions.

I found this technology after stumbling across HaloSport, which are headphones that target the brain’s capacity to make connections in order to increase athletic gains. HaloSport has been used by runners, weightlifters, and others, and isn’t limited to athletes. It’s been used by musicians as well. Studies have shown it to be effective in all areas of use. These headphones work like regular headphones: they play music and connect via bluetooth. What makes them special is they have rubber nubs all across the band that sits on top of your head. These rubber nubs actually work to stimulate your brain, which is where the tCDS becomes relevant.

Basically, tCDS is a larger version of these headphones. tCDS works through pads placed on top of the head in specified locations to target certain areas of the brain. Then an electrical current is passed through the wires to the pads, effectively engaging the brain. It’s a noninvasive way to stimulate brain activity, which in turn stimulates improvements and change in the brain.

So, HaloSport uses very similar technology in order to stimulate activity, making habit connections form at an accelerated rate. The athlete must still work hard and continue with the same exercise regimen, but the improvements will be greater.

tCDS is a non-invasive tool which improves motor and cognitive performance in the brain. It’s not yet FDA approved, but has been used in clinical trials and has been used at Johns Hopkins to treat strokes, movement disorders, chronic pain, and depression, among other medical problems.

I found this technology really interesting, and I managed to contact one of the researchers who worked on the publication that I read about tCDS. He was super helpful, too, which I really appreciate. It’s been hard to make contacts and receive responses, so this was a really great accomplishment.

I am moving into the final phase of Odyssey: my final project. I’m going to do my best to get two more interviews, but my focus is now on wrapping everything up. It’s kind of bittersweet, knowing I’m this close to being done. Certainly feels as though it went by too quickly. March is definitely going to be a busy month, but I’m looking forward to it.

As always, thanks for following along.

So, January has come and gone. To be honest, I feel like every blog I write is the same. I wish I could be writing about shadowing and meeting with professionals and so much more, but instead, I am writing about research and attempted contacts. Again. That’s how this entire year has gone. Thanks, Covid.

It’s hard to find motivation when every task feels the same. Progress feels minute if any. Everything feels stagnant. Reading and watching videos and taking notes is about all I do, save for the times I am able to correspond with a professional. Even those correspondences are stale. With so much else going on in the world, it feels like there’s no time to return an email or answer some questions. I understand why, of course, but it’s hard to continue when these communications feel like a chore in which I am constantly nagging for a response. Sometimes the extra push gets me a response. Other times it does nothing. Times like that make me question why I am doing this and how I am supposed to move forward.

Right now it is easy to get lost in the negativity, to forget to enjoy what’s happening around me. My Mom saw this in me and after allowing me to feel sorry for myself for a bit, she came to me with some facts. First, feel what you need to feel and then move forward. Second, if you don’t enjoy these times now, they will come and go and you will have never experienced any of the beauty in your life. Third, while it may not look how you pictured, there is still a lot to look forward to and be grateful for. I’m very lucky to have a Mom like mine. I realize that while I am feeling negative and those feelings must be felt and validated if I don’t try to feel better then I never will feel better. If I don’t even bother to find something to enjoy or look forward to, then things will never change. And, she’s right, there is so much good in my life right now. So much to enjoy and gain happiness from. It starts with appreciation.

Because I think maybe we could all use some reminders sometimes, here are my top “happy things” at the moment:

  1. I get to see my friends at school again. It’s only twice a week, sure, but it’s seeing my friends. Nothing is better than laughing with the people you love, no matter how strange the circumstances. Laughter truly can be medicine.
  2. I am getting in touch with myself again and learning how to take better care of myself every day. I never would have learned to accept my feelings of anxiety and still have a trademark “good” day were it not for the past year and all I have had to grow through. Peace comes when you accept and validate your emotions and experiences, but don’t allow them to govern every thought and action.
  3. No matter how chaotic it gets, my dog is excited to see me every time I walk in the door. My coffee is still enjoyable, day after day. The morning sun is still beautiful in the way it filters into the kitchen. These things haven’t lost their beauty just because I have grown accustomed to being home and seeing them time and time again.

I am reminded that it’s the simple things in life. It really, really is.

This hasn’t been a typical blog post, I know. I just think that this serves a greater purpose right now than explaining my current research does. I’m making progress, in Odyssey and out.

Every time I sit down to write one of these, I am shocked at how fast the time has passed. It’s hard to believe that my research is coming to a close and I will be graduating soon. I’m feeling very reflective right now and am so grateful to have been a part of this program. It has truly lended itself to learning about my interests and passions. However, it’s not the end yet, and I still have plenty of work to wrap up my project.

I am waiting to hear back from four sources about interviews and will hopefully get those within the next week. I was able to interview Mr. Domrzalski, a PT assistant with New Mexico Orthopaedics. He had some helpful insights and information about ACL and ankle injuries.

I am going to start compiling all of my interviews and contacts into a document so I can compare and contrast the information. Then, I plan on writing responses and notes for each interview and reference various points of research. That way I will have all of my information in one place, with real-life information and application to go alongside the research.

I am also working on my semester paper, which will be an overview of this latest semester.

In regards to wrapping up my project, I am considering a couple of options. So far my favorite is a medical pamphlet outlining possible additional difficulties for ACL tears and ankle sprains, how to manage and check for these complications, and how to promote healing and correct these additional changes. I think this could be a strong way to wrap up all of my research and create something that can benefit others.

Well, I think that’s all for now. As always, thanks for following along.

Wow, October is over already? Time flies.

I found a really awesome book to read this month called “The Brain’s Way of Healing” by Norman Doidge. He discusses a lot of ways in which neuroplasticity (the ability to change and adapt) in the brain can be used to heal injuries, chronic pain, disabilities, and more. The wide variety of examples he gives serve to show just how diverse our brains are. One man got rid of chronic pain just by rewiring how his brain perceived pain and motion in that area. Crazy stuff! I think this is super interesting, and I think for athletes these mental techniques could be useful. Sports are just as much mental as they are physical. Doidge also discusses his personal parameters for treatment and how it works neurologically. After this book, I found Dr. Irene Lyon, who has a series of YouTube videos addressing neurological healing and rewiring. While she does this for patients suffering from trauma, anxiety, and other diseases along those lines, I think her insight may be of value. She follows and references Doidge’s parameters of treatment in her practice. I have reached out to her to gain perspective and understanding, and I am hoping to hear back soon.

I also attempted to contact a concussion therapy clinic in Provo, Utah; however, I never heard back. At this clinic, neuroplasticity is targeted to treat concussion symptoms and regain use of the brain. The benefits of this treatment speak for themselves, with a 75% improvement rate. They use specific activities to target different areas of the brain and improve or create new neurological connections. I will continue to reach out, as I would really like to interview Dr. Alina Fong, who runs this practice.

I have also begun contact with Dr. Daisuki Shibata at the University of New Mexico. He works in the Department of Health, Exercise, and Sports Sciences. I am hoping to further understand the ways in which athletes may be able to use neuroplasticity to prevent and heal from injury.

I also learned about someone who has created a program for athletes post-injury in which he utilizes neuroplasticity to aid in therapy. His program has 10 steps or “rules,'' and the science supports it. Chris Mallac works with The Injury Bulletin, which is where I found his articles on this practice. I reached out to the online journal to attempt contact, but have not heard back.

As you can see, I have spent October pursuing connections with various researchers and doctors. I have high hopes that I will get some feedback soon and will keep on reaching out until I do. The way our brain works is fascinating and so much is still unknown. I truly wish I could shadow and meet with researchers, doctors, and professors in person. Maybe in the distant future that can happen. I am crossing my fingers until then!

Wow, April feels a world away by now. The past few weeks of online school have been challenging, to say the least. Adapting to this new schedule and different classes with new teachers has taken some time, but I feel confident saying I have gotten the hang of it now. As for Odyssey, well, it’s still the same, since it’s always been extremely independent and hardly ever reliant on actual school.

I began the process of more research (shocking, I know), as we returned to school. I have created goals for the semester and have high hopes for learning and communicating with professionals in various areas of study.

Some of my research has been on the physiology behind injuries and the repair of such injuries. The focus was on tendons and ligaments, which are relevant to my study of how ACL tears and ankle sprains affect the brain. There was one thing (well, many things, but one that really stood out to me) that I found really interesting: over time as tendons undergo stress, they will begin to hypertrophy. In men, this lengthening of their tendons is prevalent, and a large difference can be seen in runners versus non-runners. This change doesn’t happen consistently to women runners versus non-runners. This indicates that the change is relatively gender-specific and may be based on hormone levels.

I never would have known about this difference or thought that there could be one, but hormones control a lot of body mechanisms, so I can see how this could work. This also opens up a lot of different possibilities for healing and injury prevention techniques. … Maybe?

Anyway, that’s about all for now. Maybe next month I will have an update on said idea above. As always, thanks for reading!