Robert A. Huggins KSI Lifesaving Research Award

This award recognizes exceptional dedication and work in research aimed to improve knowledge regarding preventing sudden death in sport.


Kristen Kucera, Ph.D., MSPH, ATC, LAT

Dr. Kristen Kucera is an associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Director of the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research. She teaches the undergraduate Research Methods in Exercise and Sport Science courses and is chair of the EXSS Diversity, Equity,
and Inclusion Committee. Dr. Kucera is also a core faculty at the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center and in the Human Movement Science Curriculum. She joined the faculty in 2013 after serving as an assistant professor in the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Duke University Medical Center. Dr. Kucera received her undergraduate degree (BS, 1994) in athletic training at Linfield College (McMinnville, OR) and completed her master’s (MSPH, 2002) and doctoral (PhD, 2006) degrees in the Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. An epidemiologist and certified athletic trainer, Kristen’s research interests include sport and occupational injury epidemiology with an emphasis in conducting and improving surveillance, risk factor identification and exposure assessment, and prevention. Her research projects have addressed occupational-related and athletic-related injuries and illnesses in athletes of all ages, commercial fishermen, carpenters, certified athletic trainers, military cadets, firefighters, and university hospital employees. Community engagement surrounding implementation of best practices for prevention and improved reporting of catastrophic sports-related injuries and medical conditions are areas of current interest. Dr. Kucera’s work has been funded by The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the National Operating committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.

As NCCSIR Director, Dr. Kucera works closely with the Korey Stringer Institute through the Consortium for Catastrophic Injury Monitoring in Sport ( Together, they conduct surveillance and gather detailed information about catastrophic sport-related exertional/medical conditions among athletes in the United States. Results from this work are reported annually to sport and sport medicine organizations to help minimize the incidence and impacts of these conditions.


Katie Walsh-Flanagan, EdD, LAT, ATC

Professor and Program Director, East Carolina University

Dr. Flanagan is a native of Carmel, California and is a professor and program director of athletic training at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. She earned her BS at Oregon State, MS at Illinois State and EdD at the University of Southern California. For the past 24 years, she has been the Director of Sports Medicine/Athletic Training Program at East Carolina University. Katie is a practicing athletic trainer, research and educator and has held leadership roles through her career. As an athletic trainer, she was the AT for the men’s professional soccer team in Chicago, volunteered at the 1996 Olympic Games, and traveled abroad with both the men’s and women’s national soccer teams. She is the medical observer for East Carolina University football games.

Dr. Flanagan has written three textbooks related to athletic medicine, as well as authored numerous chapters and articles. Dr. Flanagan is considered an expert in policy; especially with lightning safety. In that area, she is internationally known for her lightning safety policies that govern recreation and sport. Katie is currently the District 3, Mid-Atlantic Athletic Trainer’s Association Director and sits on the NATA Board of Directors. She is married to Sean Flanagan and they reside in Greenville, NC.


No new award winners updated due to COVID-19.


Andrew Grundstein, PhD

Professor, University of Georgia

A GrundsteinAndrew Grundstein is a professor of Geography and member of the Atmospheric Sciences program at the University of Georgia.  His research focuses on the interactions between climate and human health, with particular interests related to heat exposure, and the impacts of heat on athletes and children.  Dr. Grundstein has published over 45 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals and his research on heat and health has been supported by grants from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.  Dr. Grundstein received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Los Angeles, and his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Delaware.


Scott Anderson, ATC

Head Athletic Trainer, University of Oklahoma

The head athletic trainer for the University of Oklahoma since 1996, Scott Anderson is currently president of the College Athletic Trainers’ Society and the Big 12 Conference representative to the NCAA Concussion Safety Committee. He is former co-director of the Summit on Safety in College Football (2014, 2016). His prior service includes

membership on the NCAA Concussion Task Force (2014) and the Inter-Association Task Force on Safety in Football: Off-Season Conditioning (2012). He was co-chair of the National Athletic Trainers’Association Inter-Association Task Force on Sickle Cell Trait in Athletes (2007) and a member of the Inter-Association Task Force on Exertional Heat Illness (2003). He served as chair of the Big 12 Conference Medical Aspects of Sport Committee from 1999 to 2002.

Recognitions: College/University – Athletic Trainer of the Year 2006; All-American Football Foundation, Inc – Outstanding Athletic Trainer 2005; and 2000-01 Big 12 Conference Athletic Training Staff of the Year, and Oklahoma Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame.


R. Dawn Comstock, PhD

Professor, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado

Dawn Comstock

Dr. Comstock, a national leader in sports injury surveillance, epidemiology, and prevention, is the founding Research Director of the National High School Sports Injury Surveillance System, High School RIO.  Since establishing High School RIO in 2005, Dr. Comstock has provided national level surveillance data to sports governing bodies, NGO’s, and federal agencies to enable those working to improve the health and safety of young athletes with the ability to have evidence-based discussions and to make data-driven decisions.  Dr. Comstock has also shared her data with clinicians, researches, and students from numerous institutions.

Dr. Comstock’s research focus is the epidemiology of injury among athletes as she believes that to combat the epidemic of obesity in our country children must be encouraged to get up off the couch and participate in physically active sports, recreation, and leisure activities. However, a certain endemic level of injury can be expected in any physical activity.  Dr. Comstock believes the challenge is to monitor injury trends through surveillance; to investigate the etiology of preventable injuries; to develop, implement, and evaluate protective interventions; and to responsibly report epidemiologic findings of injury research while promoting a physically active lifestyle for children and adolescents.

After receiving a Ph.D. in Public Health Epidemiology from the University of California San Diego/San Diego State University Dr. Comstock served as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer assigned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a liaison to the Oklahoma State Department of Health Injury Prevention Service. Before joining the Colorado School of Public Health, Dr. Comstock was a faculty member at Ohio State University and the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.  Dr. Comstock has published over 120 papers in peer-reviewed medical and public health journals including JAMA Pediatrics, Pediatrics, American Journal of Sports Medicine, British Journal of Sports Medicine, Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, Journal of Athletic Training, Injury Prevention, Journal of Primary Prevention, and Brain Injury.


Frederick O. Mueller, PhD

Professor Emeritus, Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Fred Mueller

Frederick O. Mueller is a 1961 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and after years of teaching and coaching football at the high school and college levels he completed his Ph.D. in 1970. He was appointed an assistant professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at UNC-CH and rose through the professorial ranks to full professor and eventually Departmental Chair. After 40 years he retired in 2010 as  Professor Emeritus.

During his time at UNC-CH his research was involved with the American Football Coaches Association as Chair of the Annual Study of Football Fatalities. This research reduced the number of football fatalities from a high of 36 in 1968 to zero in 1990. He also became Director of the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at this time and conducted both studies for 35 years. Research grants were received from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (one of the first grants awarded for sport injury research), American Football Coaches Association (continued for 35 years), USA Baseball, National Collegiate Athletic Association, The Yawkey Foundation, and the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Dr. Mueller received a number of Honors and Awards, but he is most proud of the reduction of fatalities and catastrophic injuries in both high school and college sports.


Erik Swartz, PhD, ATC, FNATA

Professor and Department Chair, Kinesiology, University of New Hampshire

Erik SwartzErik E Swartz PhD, ATC, FNATA, Professor and Chair, Department of Kinesiology at the University of New Hampshire. Dr. Swartz received his PhD in Applied Biomechanics at the University of Toledo. Dr. Swartz’ primary research interest focuses on the prevention and care of head and neck injuries in football. Dr. Swartz has received grants from The NATA Foundation, NOCSAE, NFL Charities, and was recently a named a winner of the NineSigma Head Health Challenge II. He has been published in journals such as The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine, Spine, and The American Journal of Sports Medicine. He serves on the NFL Head Neck and Spine Committee’s Subcommittee on Safety Equipment and on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Athletic Training and Athletic Training and Sports Health Care Journal. Dr. Swartz served as chair of the NATA Position Statement on the Acute Management of the Cervical Spine Injured Athlete. In 2011 he was honored with a Fellows designation in the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and in 2015 received the Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award, also from the NATA. He and his wife Renee have two children, Evry and Caleb.


Jonathan Drezner, MD

Professor, University of Washington & Team Physician, Seattle Seahawks and University of Washington

Jonathan Drezner Research AwardJonathan Drezner is a Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Director of the Center for Sports Cardiology at the University of Washington.  He serves as team physician for the University of Washington Huskies and the Seattle Seahawks, and is past-President of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (2012-13).  He is board certified in Family Medicine and has a Certificate of Added Qualification in Sports Medicine.  He attended Brown University where he received an undergraduate degree in biomedical ethics and also played varsity basketball.  He received his medical degree from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine in 1996 and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha National Medical Honor Society.  He completed his residency at Tacoma Family Medicine in 1999 where he was Chief Resident and also received the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Resident Teacher Award.  He completed a fellowship in Primary Care Sports Medicine and a fellowship in Faculty Development at the University of Washington.  He has twice been honored with the Faculty Teaching Award from the University of Washington Family Practice Residency Program (2001, 2006).

Dr. Drezner is the founder and director of the National Registry for AED Use in Sports, and was co-chair of the 2007 Inter-Association Task Force recommendations on emergency planning for sudden cardiac arrest in sport.  The AED registry continues to be a cornerstone for monitoring the incidence and outcomes of acute cardiac events in sport and is now utilized in collaboration with the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.

Dr. Drezner has an active role as Senior Associate Editor for the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) with a focus onincreasing sports cardiology education within the sports and exercise medicine community.  He has been guest editor of two special theme issues in sports cardiology: 1) a 2008 issue co-sponsored by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on “Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes,” and 2) a 2012 issue co-sponsored by Aspetar on “Advances in Sports Cardiology.”

Dr. Drezner served on the National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute (NHLBI) advisory committee on screening for SCD in the young.  He also had the great honor of highlighting his scientific contributions as the opening keynote lecture on SCD prevention at the 2011 IOC World Conference on the Prevention of Injury & Illness in Sport.

In 2012, Dr. Drezner was chair of an international initiative to develop ECG interpretation standards and an online training course for ECG interpretation in athletes.  The consensus guidelines (“Seattle criteria”) are aimed to assist physicians distinguish physiologic ECG adaptations in athletes from ECG abnormalities suggestive of a pathologic cardiac disorder.  The training course provides a comprehensive review of athlete’s heart, disorders associated with sudden cardiac death, and the evaluation of ECG abnormalities.  Co-sponsored by FIFA, this project has strengthened a growing consultative role for Dr. Drezner with FIFA and led to the publication of a FIFA-wide emergency planning and cardiac arrest management guideline.

Dr. Drezner believes sports medicine physicians have a unique role in the health and safety of athletes, and together with cardiology specialists can provide the full spectrum of cardiovascular care for athletes.  As Director of the Center for Sports Cardiology, he hopes to expand the clinical services available to young athletes while advancing research and education related to sports cardiology.


Kevin Guskiewicz, Ph.D., ATC, FACSM, FNATA

  • Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel-Hill, NC
  • Kenan Distinguished Professor, Chair of the Department of Exercise and Sport Science
  • Founding Director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center
  • Research Director of the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes

Guskiewicz Research Award

Renowned researcher and athletic trainer, Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz has been a leader in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of sport-related concussions. Dr. Guskiewicz has played an important role in raising awareness about the prevalence and dangers of sport-related brain injuries. He has investigated the effect of sport-related concussions on balance and neuropsychological function, and the long-term neurological issues related to playing sports. He was among the first to identify the long-term effects of multiple concussions, including cognitive impairment and depression later in life. Dr. Guskiewicz’s current research focuses on the cumulative effects of repetitive, sub-threshold brain impacts. While engaging clinicians, coaches, parents, and athletes in recognizing the immediate and long-term effects of concussions, Dr. Guskiewicz is contributing significantly to state and federal policy discussions concerning development of more stringent return-to-play guidelines and headgear investigations that will improve the safety of athletes of all ages.

Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz has been the recipient of 30 funded research grants, and has published over 100 journal articles and six textbook chapters related to concussion in sports. He was awarded Fellowship in the American College of Sports Medicine in 2003, the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education in 2006, and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association in 2008. In 2010 he was named to NCAA’s Concussion Committee, the NFLPA’s Mackey-White Committee, and the NFL’s Head, Neck, and Spine Committee. In 2011 he was named a MacArthur Fellow from the MacArthur Foundation.  The MacArthur Fellows Program (nicknamed the Genus Grant) typically awards around 20-40 unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who “have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” The foundation states that, “Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential.” This award is considered one of the most significant awards a person of any field can be granted.


COL Francis O’Connor, MD, MPH

Professor, Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, MD & Medical Director, Consortium on Health and Military Performance

Fran O'Connor Research Award

Dr. Francis G. O’Connor has been a leader in sports medicine education and research for the military for more than 20 years. Dr. O’Connor was instrumental in helping develop new U.S. Army guidelines for return to duty following exertional heat stroke.  Dr. O’Connor has also been extremely involved with U.S. military doctrine dealing with the prevention, recognition, and treatment of exertional heat stroke, sickle cell trait related conditions, and cardiovascular issues. Dr. O’Connor has authored more than 50 articles in scientific journals and numerous book chapters, technical reports and health promotion resources for the military. In addition, Dr. O’Connor is the editor of four texts on sports medicine including, the Textbook of Running Medicine and Sports Medicine for the Primary care Physician 3rd Edition.

Dr. O’Connor is one of the top physicians in the world as it relates to preventing sudden death during sport and physical activity and has contributed a great deal to the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the National Athletic Trainers Association. A colonel in the United States Army, Dr. O’Connor is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.