The fifth Matthew A. Gfeller Sports-Related Neurotrauma Symposium hosted healthcare caregivers, researchers and sports trainers for discussion around sports related neuro-traumatic injuries in all levels of sports.

Keynote speakers for the two-day conference included retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, and chief NFL Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills.

“So many sports are affected by brain trauma and spine trauma,” Sills said in an interview before his keynote address, “and it’s important that we, as a care-giving community, understand the latest research advances, and what are the opportunities that we can take that knowledge and apply it to the benefit of the athletes that are under our care.”

One of the focuses of the symposium is discussing ways to reduce risks and consequences of brain injuries specifically in young athletes. Education is a big part of that, Sills said.

“I’m a parent; I have children that have played sports. I am a youth sports coach, and I am a huge advocate of whatever the sport is and whatever the age is you need informed coaches who are trained in good technique, who also have basic understanding of concussion and brain injury and can remove players if they have any signs of those injuries.”

The event was hosted by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Matthew Gfeller Center on Friday and Saturday and included sessions on the intersection of Sports Medicine with Division I Athletics, atypical concussion injuries and changing sporting culture.

The conference also offered researchers an opportunity to meet with the clinicians who practice in the fields. Dr. Jason Mihalik is an associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science. He is also the co-director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center. He says all too often there is a distance between different groups researchers and healthcare providers working in the field.

“I think this is a really nice opportunity to engage with the community and clinicians who would potential benefit from my research. So in many respects this our big outward facing stage where we can connect with people that are hopefully beneficiaries of the work we do.”

Photo of 2017 symposium via UNC – Chapel Hill