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Renowned concussion expert says USM made him a better researcher and clinician


Michael "Micky" Collins, Ph.D. — a leading, international voice in the treatment of people with concussions — says his years at the University of Southern Maine made him a better researcher and an empathetic clinician.

"USM gave me the tools -- not only academically, but socially," Collins '91 told a packed crowd at Hannaford Hall on the Portland Campus. "I am just so thankful for the university and the education I had here."

Collins serves as director and a founding member of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Sports Medicine Concussion Program. The center treats a wide variety of people with concussions: from school kids to military personnel to famous athletes. They include players from Major League Baseball and the National Football League.

"When athletes see me, they want to know that I care," said Collins. "They want to know that I understand their situation. They want to know why they're feeling the things they're feeling. They want to get better. USM taught me a lot about that."

Collins believes he and the Pittsburgh center, founded in 2000, can help.

"I think there is a lot of disinformation out there about this injury," he said. "I actually feel it's a treatable condition."

He and researchers from around the world are trying to understand what happens to the brain when it is concussed, while floating inside the skull "like a yolk inside an egg," he said.

There are six different kinds of concussion, he said. Among them are vestibular, ocular, cognitive/fatigue, post-traumatic migraine, cervical and anxiety/mood. All require different treatments.

Often, treatments that begin soon after the injury can return an athlete to their sport in weeks, he said. He blamed media for much of the severe response to the issue of concussions.

"I actually feel it's not the boogeyman," he said. "I feel it's something we can figure out. We are making advances in treatments and getting kids back to the sports they love and doing it in an efficacious and safe way."

That is the goal.

Collins' center is the largest research and clinical program focused on the assessment, treatment, rehabilitation, research and education of sports-related mild traumatic brain injury in athletes of all levels. 

Collins has been an instrumental source across the nation in developing concussion-management policy in youth sports, state legislation on youth safety, the Centers for Disease Control's concussion toolkit, and pioneering targeted treatment pathways for his patients. He is also a cofounder of ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing), the most widely used computerized sports-concussion evaluation system that has become a standard of care in nearly all organized sports at all levels.

At USM, Collins was a member of the Huskies’ 1989 NCAA Division III New England Regional Championship baseball team—the first USM baseball team to compete in the NCAA Division III World Series.  Collins earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and biology in 1991.

He earned a master's degree in psychology in 1995 and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1998 at Michigan State University.