Robert H. Brooks Sports Science Institute LogoCLEMSON — Improved brain injury diagnoses and approaches to knee surgery are among the sports research projects that have received a boost thanks to seed grants from the Robert H. Brooks Sports Science Institute at Clemson University. The institute’s seed grants are designed to accelerate Clemson faculty members’ ability to address scientific and societal problems associated with sports.

Brett Wright, dean of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences and interim director of the institute, said the seed grants provide funds for research that demonstrates the potential to impact the understanding of sports-related issues. Wright said supporting faculty in research related to sports is one of the institute’s top priorities.

“With every new, quality research project the institute supports, Clemson becomes more synonymous with groundbreaking sports research,” Wright said. “We are extremely pleased with our faculty’s interest in these research areas and even more impressed with the crucial topics their research will cover.”

Wright said seed grant recipients were selected based on several factors. Likelihood of completion and future funding played an important role, as did the inclusion of both academic and athletic professionals’ involvement.

Wright said the selected proposals are indicative of the great diversity in Clemson’s research endeavors:

  • Thompson Mefford, associate professor in materials science and engineering, was awarded $43,730 to test a noninvasive MRI active contrast agent that could aid in the diagnosis of neurological damage following sports-related concussions. His team includes Danny Poole and Len Reeves of Clemson Athletics, Irfan Asif of the Greenville Health System and Mark Bolding of the University of Alabama. They plan to develop a sophisticated series of protocols for diagnosis and more accurate recommendations to ensure an athlete can return to play at the proper time.
  • Jeremy Mercuri and Tong Ye, assistant professors in the bioengineering department, were awarded $43,592 to determine the effectiveness of mesenchymal stem cells to promote knee cartilage health in patients undergoing surgical repair after injury. Researchers will also determine the effectiveness of nonlinear optical microscopy to identify degenerative knee cartilage damage.
  • Ryan Gagnon, Mariela Fernandez and Edmond Bowers of the parks, recreation and tourism management department were awarded $32,256 to study youth climbing programs to explore change in participation in structured sports programs, particularly among African-American males. The researchers will also examine factors that may sustain African-American youth participation in such programs.
  • Martie Thompson, professor in the youth, family and community studies department; Heidi Zinzow, associate professor in the psychology department; and Jeffrey Kingree, professor in the public health sciences department; were awarded $27,012 to develop and evaluate an online sexual violence prevention program designed for Clemson athletes. Researchers hope to expand the prevention program for a broader audience upon its completion.

The winning proposals have either multiple faculty members or interdisciplinary teams from Clemson and other institutions and sports organizations. The seed grant funding is intended to serve as a catalyst to move selected projects to a point that makes them highly competitive submissions for future external funding or impact.

“This was a wildly successful grant program for the institute and I am proud of all involved,” Wright said. “The research committee looks forward to seeing the results of these researchers’ efforts made possible by this year’s seed grants.”