Concussion Research in Athletic Training with Tamara McLeod

Tamara McLeod

Tamara McLeod is an Athletic Training professor at A.T.Still University with 25 years of experience in Athletic Training.

Dr. McLeod focuses her research on helping pediatric athletes with sport-related concussions. This work contributes to meeting her goal of creating strong concussion-related outreach services, training, and education that serve athletes at all levels.

AT Each Moment interviewed Tamara about her pathway to become an Athletic Training researcher and how her concussion research at A.T. Still University impacts the sports community.

Tamara’s Road to Athletic Training Research

All her life, Tamara had been involved in athletics while developing a strong interest in medicine. She decided to become an Athletic Trainer when her high school counselor told her there was a type of medicine that dealt with sports. 

“It was right where I wanted to go,” she says.

After completing her bachelor’s degree from Mercyhurst University, followed by a master’s degree in Kinesiology at the University of Colorado, Tamara participated in the Athletic Training Fellowship Program at the New Hampshire Musculoskeletal Institute for a year, which is now one of the CAATE- accredited Athletic Training residency programs.

“As a part of the fellowship, there was a required research element. I had always liked research and that really got me excited,” she says.

Photo from Tamara McLeod

The Residency/Fellowship Program Inspired Tamara

Her fellowship research experience inspired her to explore Athletic Training research further. Halfway through the fellowship, she decided her next steps.

She spoke with professor Julie Bernier from Plymouth State University, who introduced her to work with Dr. David Perrin at the University of Virginia for three years. During this time, Tamara spent her first two years as an Athletic Trainer at an all-boys boarding school in Charlottesville before becoming a teaching and research assistant in her third year.

After finishing her doctoral program, Tamara took a faculty position in 2002 and became the director of the Athletic Training program at A.T. Still University (ATSU) in 2014. 

At A.T. Still University, Tamara leads an active research program. “My prime research area is sport-related concussion and that is certainly an area where Athletic Trainers are extremely well-versed and extremely valuable members of the athletic healthcare team and the healthcare team in general,” she says.

A Powerful Network For Researching Concussions

Tamara collaborates with many high schools in the area to support her concussion research. 

“We are probably the only Athletic Training program in the country that does not have athletics, but we have an amazing network of local high schools and local community colleges that we partner with for practice-based research to be able to work with patients at the time that they’re injured,” she says.

With the goal to provide the strongest concussion program, Tamara and her colleagues worked on a large project to develop an instrument that assesses the concussion-specific health-related quality of life for athletes.

Photo from Tamara McLeod

The research has subjects complete computerized cognitive tasks to find deficits and determine when athletes return to baseline along with assessing the patients to understand their experience following concussion. .

“There are lots of different outcome instruments, but none that really gets at the heart of some of the issues that patients have with concussions. For example, I can say ‘Your balance looks better today’ and the patient may be thinking ‘I am still dizzy when I am in the car’. We really try to assess the patient’s perspective to determine what is important to them,” Tamara says.

The research has also examined the academic outcomes of those with concussions and how the healthcare providers like Athletic Trainers And the school nurses, may or may not be communicating with the teachers to help the student-athletes in the classroom.

To The Future Athletic Training Researchers

Research conducted by Athletic Trainers impacts patients’ lives, sports safety, and public health. Athletic Trainers engage in research in many ways, ranging from data acquisition at the point of care to designing and executing large-scale studies. Research is essential to advancing healthcare.  For more on a career in research, see Douglas Casa’s story on his path to researching heat illnesses.

A career in Athletic Training offers multiple pathways. Discover the path you wish to pursue, whether it’s to contribute impactful research to the sports community like Tamara, providing care on a military base,or helping high school athletes stay healthy.