September 1, 2022 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtney Meyer’s interest in head, neck and spine injuries stems from personal experience. The athletic trainer and Ph.D. in Exercise Science student received a concussion while playing lacrosse during her senior year of high school in Fenton, Missouri.
“Women’s lacrosse does not include protective gear, and I was cutting across in front of the goal when someone took a shot, and the ball hit me in the temple – one of the thinnest parts of the skull,” Meyer says. “Everything immediately went black. I was helped off the field, provided with an ice pack and removed from play. I was not assessed for a concussion, and I was allowed to drive home.”
An excruciating headache had begun by the time she got to her house, and she went to the school nurse after feeling sick during her first class the next morning. The nurse administered a neurological assessment and referred her for further assessment after suspecting a concussion.
Meyer missed three weeks of school before slowly returning to classes, but her struggles didn’t end there. Prolonged symptoms led to a prescription for an Alzheimer’s medication to combat short-term memory deficits. The following year, her undergraduate studies at Truman State University were filled with difficulties in concentration and retaining information. Eventually Meyer was diagnosed with ADHD – likely associated with her concussion.
“At this time, I was already enrolled in athletic training courses with a pre-physical therapy concentration, and my interest was obviously piqued by this diagnosis,” she says. “I started consuming as much information as I could on concussions and traumatic brain injuries – also known as TBIs – how to educate others on recognizing the signs and symptoms, and the potential lasting effects for those with a history of TBI.”
After her 2014 graduation, Meyer gained experience as an athletic trainer and completed a master’s in sport and exercise science from West Texas A&M University. She spent the next year as the head athletic trainer at a small midwestern college and then another two years as an advanced postgraduate athletic trainer with Stanford University.
As her postgraduate position was winding down, Meyer began looking for her next opportunity. A friend forwarded a tweet advertising a teaching assistant position with the Arnold School’s Ph.D. in Exercise Science (No. 1 in the nation) program.
“I decided to apply to UofSC after speaking with Dr. Zachary Winkelmann and Dr. Susan Yeargin,” Meyer says. “While I had been familiar with the prestige and history of the exercise science department and Arnold School of Public Health, it was the compassion, dedication and openness of the faculty that truly impacted my decision to attend UofSC.”
Meyer enrolled in the program in 2020 as a Norman J. Arnold Doctoral Fellow and immersed herself in teaching, coursework and research. She was particularly excited about how the program’s home in a school of public health provided opportunities to learn more about health promotion, services, policies and other areas.
As a teaching a teaching assistant, Meyer works closely with Jim Mensch, who directs the department’s M.S. in Athletic Training program. She is grateful for the clinical associate professor’s open-door policy and ability to share his own professional experiences while providing a listening ear and constructive feedback.
In her own classes, the Eve Becker Doyle Scholar has been inspired by the teaching style of biostatistics clinical assistant professor Andrew Ortaglia. “While his courses are some of the most rigorous I have ever experienced, he is always willing to go the extra mile to help you understand and provides real-world scenarios that have helped me tackle the material,” she says.
Yeargin, who oversees all of Meyer’s research activities, has become an important mentor as well. “Dr. Yeargin has truly fostered my passion for research and helped me to determine my niche,” Meyer says. “She inspires me every day to strive for more not only in my research but in my personal and professional life as well.”
That research niche has been refined to focus on medical emergencies of the head, neck and spine within active/sports populations that involve equipment. She is particularly interested in youth and adolescent athletics, which are often underserved, as well as the associated policy- and gender-related factors and implications.
“I feel that this area of study has the potential to greatly impact not only the area of athletic training but also public health as a whole,” she says.
On campus, Meyer represents athletic training as a group facilitator for Transforming Health Care for the Future as part of UofSC’s Interprofessional Education for the Health Sciences program. She also serves on the university’s Health Advisory Committee and co-chairs the Rehab Sciences Journal Club. Meyer has received multiple travel grants to present her research and was selected as the Doctoral Student of the Year (2021) by the South Carolina Athletic Training Graduate Student Association.
After completing her program, Meyer plans to continue her research. She also would like to pursue opportunities to be involved in the development of state and national sport safety policies.
“Finding a mentor that you can get along with and that will support you as a student, employee and individual is crucial," Meyer advises students considering a similar path. “I could not have made it this far without the mentorship of those within the athletic training program and exercise science department.”