by Brendan Sample
With most high school upperclassmen taking time at the end of the school year to work on their college careers, one junior at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy has already gotten a leg up on his future in a big way. Marco Goldberg has received national recognition from the American Headache Society for his research study on sports-related concussions in high-school wrestlers. In addition to presenting his findings at the AHS’ 61st Annual Scientific Meeting in July, he will also have an abstract of his study published in the organization’s official research journal, Headache.
A Chestnut Hill resident and biology student, Goldberg is a wrestler himself at SCH, which has allowed him the opportunity to see some of the effects concussions have had on his teammates. In addition, he has even had the unfortunate experience of seeing their effects firsthand.
“In the past I had a few concussions, so I was already familiar with the topic,” Goldberg said. “My dad is an OB/GYN [obstetrician/ gynecologist] at Einstein and does a lot of research projects, so I had talked it over with him to gain an idea of a project that I could do related to concussions that would be feasible.”
Amidst creating surveys, gathering and analyzing data, writing an abstract and designing a presentation, the entire project took Goldberg about two months to complete. He presented his research at the George Washington Carver Science Fair and won the Astrazeneca Advancing Science For Better Health Award, along with $250. After his initial success, he wanted to further pursue other outlets that might be interested in his work.
“I decided to try and present my work at some meetings,” Goldberg recalled. “It got accepted for poster presentation at the American Headache Society national meeting and at the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine national meeting … I had never actually heard of Headache before. It was just one of the meetings that I found that accepted submissions for this type of project.”
Though he had closer access to his fellow wrestlers at SCH, Goldberg handed out his survey at a wrestling tournament so as to get results from multiple schools. He surveyed both students and parents to see what percentage of students had suffered from concussions, if families considered stopping participation in contact sports due to a concussion and if anyone would be willing to conceal such an injury in order to keep wrestling.
Goldberg found that parents were more concerned with safety than students, as 67% of parents against 23% of wrestlers would allow concerns over concussions to stop contact sports participation. Likewise, 49% of wrestlers compared to just 7% of parents would at least consider hiding a concussion to keep wrestling. He also discovered a correlation between a lower knowledge of concussions and a higher likelihood of concealing them.
Overall, Goldberg’s research led him to conclude that there is a “need for continued education of both parents and athletes about the risks of concealing a concussion to continue sports participation.” While this study did not get into the specific physiology of concussions, he hopes that it will help others better understand this particular injury, including him, as he actually suffered another concussion after the study concluded.
“Doing preliminary research on the topic definitely gave me a better understanding of the injury and gave me insights about things that I could do for a quicker recovery,” Goldberg said.
As he looks ahead to his time in college, Goldberg will definitely be using this project as a stepping off point. He plans to study either engineering or pre-med as an undergraduate, and feels that this experience will be invaluable to him, particularly for pre-med.
“I’m really interested in the fields of orthopedics, sports medicine and interventional radiology,” Goldberg said. “This project has given me a great understanding of how medical research works and could be expanded into an even larger project in the future.”
Although between 150 and 200 SCH students conduct research studies like this every school year, a student having his or her work published in an official research journal is a much more rare occasion. In his 29 years as head of the school’s science department, Scott Stein could only recall about six instances of a student’s work being published like this. With students having to conduct these projects on top of their usual classwork, this level of success is a testament to both the program and Goldberg’s work.
“The biggest benefit to these studies is that very rarely in high school do kids get to follow something of interest that’s driven by them,” Stein said. “His [Goldberg’s] work was really thorough. He collected a lot of data, asked good questions and reported on a very timely topic.”
Putting together every aspect of the study was certainly a challenge for Goldberg, but with his passion for both the subject and research methods, he was able to put together a project not only that he enjoyed, but one that could have a significant impact on the long-term health of student- athletes.
“My favorite part of the study was analyzing the data that we collected,” Goldberg said. “I love math, and even though we weren’t sure if the results would be very telling or not, they turned out way better than we could’ve expected. Designing the survey was one of the most complicated parts, but after playing around with it for a while, it turned out to be very strong.”
The abstract for Goldberg’s study can be found on SCH’s website.
Brendan Sample can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-248-8819.