Graduate School Alumni

Johna Register-Mihalik

Graduate alumna's research into sports-related traumatic brain injuries goes directly to adolescent quality of life, well-being in North Carolina

Johna Register-Mihalik

Sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), also known as concussions, can be potentially catastrophic injuries. An estimated 1 million sports-related brain injuries occur annually, with hundreds occurring in student-athletes in North Carolina. If the initial injury is not reported or managed properly, a person is more susceptible to recurrent sports-related brain injury and more complicated injury.

The overall research goals of Johna Register-Mihalik, who received her doctorate in human movement science from UNC-Chapel Hill, were to assess the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors surrounding sports-related brain injury among high school athletes and coaches in an effort to better identify and manage these injuries. She conducted a cross-sectional study to better understand mild TBI in this young athletic population.

Results indicate that more than 80 percent of mild TBIs were not reported by the athletes and unidentified by medical personnel or coaches, and that the roles of teammates and coaches are the most influential factors in reporting. This study constitutes an important step toward developing evidence-based prevention initiatives to assess risky behaviors of not reporting mild TBIs.

Register-Mihalik grew up in Alabama, but she has made North Carolina her home and is a postdoctoral research associate in the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related TBI Research Laboratory, under the sponsorship of UNC-Chapel Hill's department of exercise and sport science.