URI Health Services doctor wins national honor for research on fatigue among female track athletes

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Saunderstown residents says sleep, nutrition key

KINGSTON, R.I. – July 21, 2014 — A University of Rhode Island Health services physician earned top honors from the American College Health Association for his research presentation on fatigue among female track athletes.

Christopher Nasin, a primary care physician at Health Services, who treats URI student-athletes for illness and non-surgical injuries, was awarded a blue ribbon, the health association’s top prize, during the organization’s recent annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas. The poster, entitled, “Fatigue and Energy Balance in Female College Endurance Athletes,” summarized the interdisciplinary research project involving undergraduate kinesiology students Justin Nicoll, Ryan Keith and Valerie Cadbury, as well as Disa Hatfield, associate professor of kinesiology, and Kathleen Melanson, associate professor of food science and nutrition.

According to Nason’s poster, fatigue is a common complaint among college female athletes. While clinicians usually perform routine laboratory studies to rule out organic causes of fatigue, the Saunderstown resident’s team focused on these factors: energy balance, mood, sleep and serum markers.

“We noticed over several years at URI Health Services that female runners, particularly long distance runners, were coming in with complaints about fatigue,” Nasin said. “So I approached Professors Melanson and Hatfield to help put together a project to examine this problem.”

“Over a 14-week period (during the spring season), we monitored 16 female middle and long distance runners on several variables,” Nasin said.

The researchers assessed nutrition, vertical jump power and blood markers before the spring track season began, during the season and after its conclusion. Fatigue, sleep and athlete burnout scales were administered weekly. Researchers also assessed race times and the percentage of change during the season.

“What we found at the end of the study was the athletes’ nutrition was not adequate to support their level of training and competition,” Nasin said. “They were not eating enough, and they we not getting the right types of nutrition. If this is true for athletes, it’s probably true for society in general. The other major factor was poor sleep.”

Nasin said he has given numerous lectures on these issues, but until now, he did not have study results to make a strong case.

The research team has given feedback to all of the study participants with the goal of helping them maintain optimum health so they perform at their peak academically and athletically.

“I would like to put together a program for URI athletics that addresses these issues, and helps student-athletes and coaches work together,” Nasin said. “I’d like to help make a difference in our student-athletes lives.”