SCH Student's Concussion Research Presented at the 2021 Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS)

This week, a research project on which SCH senior Aden Goldberg was the first author was presented at the 2021 Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) in Austin, Texas, the premier research meeting for neurosurgeons. Aden's project explored experience, knowledge, and attitudes towards concussions among high school students and their parents. 

Aden’s journey to this impressive achievement began in 10th grade when, on the third day of wrestling practice, he suffered a severe concussion that took him over a year to fully recover from and effectively ended his wrestling aspirations. 

That experience was the motivation behind his choice of research topic when he took biology in 11th grade. “We had a project where you could pick any topic to do research on and I picked concussion,” explains Aden. Partly influenced by the work of his older brother, Marco, who had researched concussion attitudes in boys’ wrestling, Aden decided to expand his survey population to include girls, students in other contact sports, and students in no contact sports, as well as their parents. The goal of his study was to shed light on awareness of and attitudes toward sports-related concussions and the willingness to conceal a concussion in order to continue playing a sport.   

“Aden elected to submit his project to symposiums and speaker series that were outside of our typical science fair requirements,” says biology teacher Ann Zalasky. “Going above and beyond like this really exemplifies Aden’s dedication to learning in the field of science and his hunger to sink his teeth into research and take his education as far as possible.” 

While some of Aden’s findings were what one might expect—more parents were concerned about concussions than their students; those who had had concussions were more concerned than those who had not—there were two surprising takeaways: despite the high number (45%) of respondents who reported that they had had a concussion, 52% of concussed students said they would conceal another such injury in order to continue to play and 5% of parents said they would do the same. Attitudes toward concealment among non-contact-sport players and among non-concussed players fell in a similar range. 

“It’s a big number,” acknowledges Aden. “People think that concussions are not that big a deal. I think if there was more information and more knowledge out there, those numbers might go down.” 

While rare for a high school student's research to be selected for presentation at CNS, Aden's project was actually one of the few chosen for a prestigious oral presentation. (Unfortunately, his scheduled Zoom presentation was cancelled as a result of CNS deciding to hold its conference in person.) Aden said “I’m thankful that it even got accepted, and I look forward to pursuing new research opportunities in the future.” 

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