Harvard fellowship complemented her Mason experience

PhD student Patricia Kelshaw's research endeavors to establish more specific baseline measures for children participating in sports in order to better manage concussions. Photo by Lathan Goumas.

Patricia Kelshaw has been immersed in George Mason University’s Athletic Training Education Program for as long as she has been at the university.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in athletic training in 2014, her master’s in exercise, fitness and health promotion in 2016 and is currently pursuing her PhD in education with a concentration in exercise, fitness and health promotion.

“It has been great to see her grow as a student and professionally,” said professor Shane Caswell, founding executive director of Mason’s Sports Medicine Assessment, Research and Testing Laboratory. “She has a real compassion for working with young athletes and making sure their needs are met with high-quality care.”

That is why the week Kelshaw recently spent on a prestigious Young Investigator Grant at Harvard University’s Accelerate Knowledge/Improve Care Concussion Research Program was so special and informative.

“It was just a huge learning opportunity for me to get to work with people who are pretty big contributors in the field of concussion research,” she said.

Kelshaw’s research endeavors to establish more specific baseline measures for children participating in sports to better manage concussions. Those measures could also enhance the Child Support Concussion Assessment Tool, a standardized evaluation instrument that helps assess whether concussions have occurred and informs care throughout recovery.

It is truly research of consequence. As Caswell explained, “We have tools that are recognized internationally by expert consensus, but not a lot of validation work to understand how these tools work in the community.”

“We’re looking at it by demographic variations, by gender differences, by age differences,” Kelshaw said. “We want to see what these differences look like and how this could be meaningful to a clinician in determining what is normal for a specific patient.”

Data are drawn from Mason’s ACHIEVES Program, which connects licensed athletic trainers with nine middle schools in Prince William County, Virginia. The graduate students not only treat and work to prevent sports injuries, they also conduct research to help improve care for pediatric athletes.

“We’re describing how current concussion assessment tools work in healthy and injured pediatric patient populations,” she said. “We are examining how preexisting conditions may affect pediatric concussion tools, which is huge to consider when trying to establish some sort of normative data.”

Kelshaw’s Harvard grant and her work with Grant Iverson, director of the Sports Concussion Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, will help her with statistical analysis and clearly writing about her findings, she said.

It also was a perfect complement to what she has learned at Mason.

“The Athletic Training Education Program gave me both the big and small school experience,” said Kelshaw, whose long-term goal is to teach and continue to engage in pediatric injury research. “Mason is big, but the program is small, with incredible clinical opportunities for us to reach out into the community and give care. That’s what I love about the program.”