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Brain Power: Jillian Casarella ’17, Lisa Grous ’17, and Rachel Raucci ’17

Three summer fellows are aiming to educate student-athletes about the dangers of concussions.

As a student-athlete at Ursinus College, Lisa Grous ’17 is all too familiar with how head injuries can impact her teammates. 

“I’ve seen a lot of my friends and teammates have to leave games or stop playing sports altogether because of concussions,” says Grous, a member of the Ursinus women’s lacrosse team. “It’s something that I experience regularly.” 

The long-term effects of concussions has become a prominent part of the national conversation on head injuries in sports and Grous, along with classmates Jillian Casarella ’17 and Rachel Raucci ’17, are working on a research project this summer that will help educate young athletes and their coaches and parents about the dangers of concussions. 

“We want everyone to be on the same page,” Grous says. “There are a wide variety of opinions on the topic, so I think it’s important to get everyone thinking the same way about how impactful concussions can be.” 

The three students are working with Joel Bish, an associate professor of psychology, during Ursinus’ Summer Fellows program, which pairs select students with faculty members on an independent research project. Grous, Casarella, and Raucci are studying groups of college students who have and have not suffered a concussion to determine the impact the injury has on executive functioning in the brain. 

They are also creating a concussion outreach program for student-athletes at Ursinus and surrounding school districts to raise awareness of the lingering trauma that can occur when someone suffers a head injury. 

“There’s always new research coming out because it’s such a hot topic, so we’re always learning new things that we can apply to our research,” Raucci says. “There are a lot of misconceptions about concussions and many players will keep playing even if they have a concussion because they don’t want to leave the game. We’re trying to help eliminate that.” 

Casarella adds, “I think we’ve come to realize that there is significant risk with concussions. As summer fellows, we can take what we’ve learned through research and in class and apply it in real life to help make a difference.”