CPASS graduate student studying emotional impacts of concussions

Megan Byrd Portrait

While there have been many advances in the detection and treatment of athletic-related concussions, WVU graduate student Megan Byrd says less has been done to try to understand the emotional impact.

Byrd, in her fourth year in the Sport Exercise Psychology doctoral program at WVU’s College of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences, has received a one-time research grant from the NCAA to help fill that gap.

“If we can better understand how athletes are experiencing and making sense of their emotional responses to concussions we can better treat and, hopefully, prevent the occurrence and severity of mood disturbances,” Byrd explained.

Byrd foresees the $2,250 grant supporting her long-term goals. “I would love to have a future position that would allow me to continue working in the field of concussions as well as consulting with athletes. The grant allows me to explore both of these worlds further, as well as makes me more marketable for faculty and research positions.” 

Currently an SEP graduate teaching assistant with CPASS, Byrd needed three letters of recommendation for the application. Byrd turned to CPASS faculty members Sam Zizzi and James Hannon, as well as Anthony Kontos with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center concussion clinic. She received her master’s degree in sport behavior and performance from Miami University.

Byrd says her experiences at CPASS have directly led to her research-related success. “First, my advisor and dissertation chair, Dr. Zizzi, has supported my topic from the initial conception, even when I questioned its feasibility. At times, when I found myself feeling lost and overwhelmed in the literature forest, he was always available for guidance,” she explained.

“My other two CPASS committee members, Dr. Damien Clement and Dr. Ed Etzel, have both encouraged me to pursue my topic and have been instrumental in the development of my research question and ability to complete the grant application process.

“My committee has never rejected an idea, regardless of how far-fetched it seemed. I am grateful to them for that. In dissertation seminar, Dr. Hannon motivated me to apply for a grant and didn’t hesitate to write me a letter of recommendation. His words of wisdom, ‘You can’t get a grant that you don’t apply for’ stuck with me and pushed me to apply for the NCAA grant,” Byrd added.

In-classroom learning provided critical information. “Dr. Zizzi and Dr. Peter Giacobbi taught me how to write a grant proposal and what pertinent information to include. Dr. Dana Voelker listened to my grant application concerns on a late summer afternoon and offered suggestions for me to move forward,” she said.

“Lastly, without the consistent positivity and assistance of Dr. Jack Watson I don’t know that I would have had the wherewithal to withstand the application process. All of the faculty at CPASSdo a tremendous job supporting and encouraging student research endeavors. I feel very lucky to have had the chance to showcase their success through my own,” Byrd concluded.

To apply for the grant Byrd submitted a detailed proposal outlining the issues and theories addressed in her research, methodology, the significance and potential implications, surveys and instruments to be used and budget. Athletes will complete questionnaires at three time points following concussion and then participate in follow-up interviews.

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