Accurate diagnosis of concussions requires multi-modality analysis using objective testing methods to better understand how the brain works
Systematically research post-concussion treatment options to reduce risk and find strategies targeted to the point of disconnect
Develop rehabilitation programs to contain progress of cognitive degeneration to allow individuals to continue quality of life
Currently identifying and diagnosing concussions on the sports field (or workplace or school yard) is subjective and based on clinical observation and judgement. Accurate diagnosis of concussions requires multi-modality analysis using objective testing methods. These include established and valid neuroscience methods that measure brain activity (as neuroimaging does not reveal any abnormalities following a concussion), biomarkers; to associate with clinical assessment and neuropsychology testing. By improving evaluation via objective testing methods, individuals are less likely to sustain multiple concussions.
Dr Pearce's research focuses on the neurophysiology of sports-related concussion, using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Additional research interests include neuroplasticity of motor skill acquisition, strength training and rehabilitation, assessed by TMS. Dr Pearce has currently published over 100 peer-reviewed research papers.
Following evaluation, research is required to reduce the risk of further concussions by having the individual to return to play too soon. Current methods of clinical assessment that involve symptom observation and neuropsychological testing do not provide a comprehensive representation of how the brain is recovering, potentially allowing a person to return to play before they have fully recovered. As recent research has shown that the risk of further injury after a concussion rises by 50% it is important to be able to provide reliable and valid measures of concussion recovery. This will allow for confidence when an individual is allowed to return to sport.
Treatment is also an area lacking in research. Current guidelines suggest an individual should take complete rest after concussion’ however, with depression a potential issue following concussion, there are new suggestions that an active recovery is required. As there is limited evidence for both working hypotheses, research is required to systematically research post-concussion treatment options.
Further to treatment, research is needed to rehabilitate those who have sustained multiple concussions and are showing signs of cognitive or neurological impairment. Research has shown links between repeated head injuries and the onset of cognitive impairments, as well as movement disorders, later in life. Research in movement disorders and the cognitive sciences has shown potential in rehabilitation, using the principle of ‘neuromodulation’ (using an external stimulus to modulate brain activity) as part of the rehabilitation process. For example, in acquired brain injury (Stroke) research, neuromodulation via brain stimulation technology assists with ‘priming the brain’ in preparation for exercise therapy; similarly, the same technologies are being used during cognitive training. By undertaking further research in those with cognitive impairments or movement disorders from repeated head trauma, we will aim to ‘contain’ progress of further cognitive degeneration and assist those to improve functionally from their injury, and taking them to a ‘new normal’ allowing them to continue quality of life.
Sports Medicine, Physiology, Neuroscience PhD, BSc (Hons), Grad Dip, Grad Cert.
Dr Pearce's research focuses on the neurophysiology of sports-related concussion, using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Additional research interests include neuroplasticity of motor skill acquisition, strength training and rehabilitation, assessed by TMS. Dr Pearce has currently published over 100 peer-reviewed research paper.
Other Research Papers published in journals include:
The Neurophysiological Response following sub-concussive soccer heading.
Do as I say: contradicting beliefs and attitudes towards sports concussion in Australia
Attitudes towards concussion in Australian Exercise Science Students. Does the Type and Level of Participation in Sport Matter?
Movement disorders and motor impairments following repeated head trauma: A systematic review of the literature 1990-
Using transcranial magnetic stimulation to quantify electrophysiological changes following concussive brain injury: a systematic review
Acute motor, neurocognitive and neurophysiological change following concussion injury in Australian amateur football. A prospective multimodal investigation.
The long-term effects of sports concussion on retired Australian football players; a study using transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Hard knocks: Concussion injuries in tennis
World First Study Findings
"Quantifying Head Impact Dynamics in Community Level Australian Rules Football".
Presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
Neurophysiological and cognitive impairment following repeated sports concussion injuries in retired professional rugby league players.