Free Communications Awards

The purpose of the Free Communications Awards program is to recognize and encourage the research efforts of athletic trainers and athletic training students by awarding outstanding research awards based on NATA Foundation Free Communications program abstracts and presentations. The award categories include 5 types of awards across the research spectrum, which will all be presented as Oral Presentations.

2022 Winners:

Pre-Professional/Professional Student:

Ritsumeikan University

Abstract Title:
“A Mindfulness Breathing Exercise Program Improves Dynamic Postural Control in Collegiate Soccer Athletes with a History of Lateral Ankle Sprain”

Clinical Take Home Message: A mindfulness breathing exercise program may improve dynamic postural control in collegiate athletes with a history of a lateral ankle sprain.

Post-Professional Advanced Clinical Track Student:

University of Toledo

Abstract Title: 
“Transverse Abdominis Activity in Healthy Active Adults During Therapeutic Exercises”

Clinical Take Home Message: Transverse abdominis (TrA) dysfunction has been linked to low back pain. Traditionally, clinicians use table-top activation methods to target the TrA, however, this study demonstrated effective, more functional positions for achieving activation. In turn, this gives clinicians options to move past the table and get their patients incorporating TrA activation into positions beyond supine.

Post-Professional Terminal Degree Student: 

Ohio University

Abstract Title:
“Action-Observation Brain Activity Associate with Kinesiophobia after Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction”

Clinical Take Home Message: After ACLR kinesiophobia may affect drop vertical jump motor planning neural activation. Athletic trainers may consider interventions such as virtual reality immersion to target cognitive motor calibration and pain management in those with high fear of movement.


University of Kentucky

Abstract Title:
“Immediate and Retention Effects of Auditory Biofeedback Gait Training on Biomechanics and Talar Cartilage Characteristics in Chronic Ankle Instability”

Clinical Take Home Message: Auditory biofeedback during gait training medially shifts plantar pressure and center of pressure gait line in patients with chronic ankle instability. Clinicians can easily implement external biofeedback during gait training.

Established Career:

Consortium for Health and Military Performance

Abstract Title:
“Financial Impact of Embedded Injury Prevention Experts in U.S. Army Initial Entry Training”

Clinical Take Home Message:  Employing injury prevention experts in U.S. Army Initial Entry Training is associated with reduced sunk costs due to fewer soldiers being discharged from service early for musculoskeletal-related reasons. Continued employment of injury prevention experts will sustain their positive financial and operational impacts in the U.S. Army.


Award Categories:

  1. Pre-Professional/Professional Student – Individuals eligible for this award would be undergraduate students or entry-level students who are pursuing education to become an athletic trainer (i.e., pre-ATC credential).
  2. Post-Professional Advanced Clinical Track Student – Individuals eligible for this award would already have their athletic training credential but are still a student pursuing further education for the goal of becoming an advanced clinician and includes advanced master’s degree and residents.
  3. Post-Professional Terminal Degree Student – Individuals eligible for this award would already have their athletic training credential but are still a student pursuing further education in a terminal degree (e.g, DAT, PhD, EdD, DHSc/DHS, ScD/DSc, DHEd)
  4. Early-Career– Individuals eligible for this award would be working in their current position and have < 7 years of experience since being a student, including postdoctoral fellows, faculty, staff, other.
  5. Established Career – Individuals eligible for this award would be working in their current position and have at least 7 years of experience since being a student, including: faculty, staff, other.

2016 – 2021 Winners


Learn more about the 2021 recipients here

Pre-Professional/Professional Student: Claire Brewer, University of Alabama. “Preliminary Investigation between Race as a Social Determinant of Health and Symptom Endorsement Following a Sport-Related Concussion”

Post-Professional Advanced Clinical Track Student: Kennedy Dewey, ATC, George Mason University. “The Epidemiology of Injuries in Middle School Baseball Between the 2015/16 and 2018/19 School Years”

Post-Professional Terminal Degree Student: Xavier Thompson, MS, ATC, University of Virginia. “Disagreement in Pass Rates Among Different Components of Return to Sports Test Batteries After ACLR”

Early-Career: Alicia Lacy, PhD, ATC, A.T. Still University. “Athletic Trainers’ Perceptions of and Experiences with Unlearning in Clinical Practice”

Established Career: Tamara Valovich McLeod, PhD, ATC, FNATA, A.T. Still University. “Test-Retest Reliability of the Concussion Quality of Life-Youth Patient-Report Outcome Measure (Version 1).”


Pre-Professional/Professional Student: Chaselyn Trentley, University of Lynchburg. “The Experience of Professional Master’s Athletic Training Students With Sexual Harassment During Clinical Education”

Post-Professional Advanced Clinical Track Student: Stephanie Stephens, MS, ATC,University of Virginia. “Dry Cupping Therapy Improves Subcutaneous Hemodynamics and Pain Associated with Nonspecific Neck Pain”

Post-Professional Terminal Degree Student: Justin Rush, MS, ATC, University of Toledo. “Limb Differences in Hamstring Muscle Function and Morphology 2-9 Years After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction”

Early-Career: Rachel Koldenhoven Rolfe, PhD, ATC, Texas State University. “Gait Biofeedback and Impairment-based Rehabilitation for Chronic Ankle Instability: A Randomized Controlled Trial”

Established Career: Randy Schmitz, PhD, ATC, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “Neural Correlates of Knee Extension Exercise and Single Leg Hop Performance Following Attentionally Focused Neuromuscular Training”


Undergraduate Poster:  Holly Carrington, University of Virginia. “The Effect of Hormonal Contraceptives on Length of Recovery in Female Collegiate Athletes”

Master’s Poster:  Lilly VanDeMark, MA, LAT, ATC, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The Effect of Progressive Visual Occlusion on Postural Control Response in Those With and Without Chronic Ankle Instability”

Doctoral Poster: Cody Criss, Ohio University. “Neural Activity Differences for Combined Hip-Knee Motor Control in ACL Reconstructed Individuals”

Master’s Oral: Francesca Genoese, LAT, ATC, CES, University of Kentucky. “The Relationship Between Injury-Related Fear and Visuomotor Reaction Time in Individuals After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction”

Doctoral Oral: Esther Nolton, MEd, LAT, ATC, George Mason University. “Virginia Concussion Initiative: Stakeholder Perspectives of Disparities in Concussion Policy Implementation


Undergraduate Poster – Briana Rexrode – Lynchburg College

Master’s Poster – Jacob Hartzell, LAT, ATC – University of Kentucky

Doctoral Poster -Rachel Koldenhoven, MEd, ATC – University of Virginia

Master’s Oral – Morgan Perry– University of Evansville

Doctoral Oral – Britney Luc-Harkey, PhD, ATC – Brigham and Women’s Hospital Orthopedics Department


Undergraduate Poster – Grant Cabel – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Master’s Poster – Brad Endres, ATC, CSCS – Korey Stringer Institute / University of Connecticut

Doctoral Poster -Kevin Morris, MS, ATC – Ohio University

Master’s Oral – Andres Almeraya, ATC – Korey Stringer Institute / University of Connecticuty

Doctoral Oral – John Goetschius, PhD, ATC – University of Virginia


Undergraduate Poster – Katherine Van Wert – High Point University

Master’s Poster – Jamie Legner – Old Dominion University

Doctoral Poster -Jennifer Cuchna – Old Dominion University

Master’s Oral – Joseph Vogler – Indiana State University

Doctoral Oral – Lesley Vandermark – University of Connecticut

2011 – 2015 Winners


Undergraduate Poster – Andrea Baellow – High Point University

Master’s Poster – Tyler Oberlander – South Dakota State

Doctoral Poster -Robert Lynall – UNC Chapel Hill

Master’s Oral – Stephanie Madura – Temple University

Doctoral Oral – Dustin Grooms – The Ohio State University


Undergraduate Poster – Arthur Adkins – Saginaw Valley State University

Masters Poster – David Florea, MS, ATC – University of Toledo

Doctoral Poster – Alan Needle, PhD, ATC, CSCS – Appalachian State University

Master’s Oral – Matthew Mills, MA, ATC, PES – Stanford University

Doctoral Oral – Adam S. Lepley, MA, ATC – University of Toledo


Undergraduate Poster – Shirleah Fayson

Master’s Oral – Kimberly Gray, ATC

Master’s Poster – Stephanie M. Kulow, ATC

Doctoral Oral – Luke Donovan, MEd, ATC

Doctoral Poster – Emily Anne Hall, MS, ATC


Undergraduate Poster – Leslie Cardozza

Master’s Oral – Stasia M. Burroughs, MEd, ATC, CSCS

Master’s Poster – Steven St. Thomas, ATC

Doctoral Oral – Johanna M. Hoch, MS, ATC

Doctoral Poster – Matthew Shawn Donahue, MS, ATC


Undergraduate Poster – Lyndsey Ingram

Master’s Orals – Candace Leach, ATC

Master’s Posters – Masafumi Terada, ATC

Doctoral Orals – Hayley M. Ericksen, MS, ATC

Doctoral Posters – Rebecca L. Scanlon-Begalle, MS, ATC, CSCS

2006 – 2010 Winners


Undergraduate Poster – David Craig Oates, ATC

Master’s Orals – Allison Kim Master’s Posters – Ryan Sean McCann, ATC

Doctoral Orals – Shelley Linens Doctoral Posters – Brian Pietrosimone, PhD, ATC


Undergraduate Poster – Jeanne Graf

Master’s Orals – Ashley Anna Reed, ATC

Master’s Posters – Emily Schlitz, ATC, LAT

Doctoral Orals – Lindsay DiStefano, MA, ATC, PES

Doctoral Posters – Jihong Park, MS, ATC, CSCS


Undergraduate Poster – Thomas Bateman

Master’s Poster – Matthew W. Rondeau, MA, ATC, LAT

Doctoral Poster – Sarah de la Motte, MA, ATC

Master’s Oral – Daniel Huffman, MEd, ATC, CSCS

Doctoral Oral – Johna Kay Register-Mihalik, MA, ATC


Undergraduate Poster – Edward S. Ericksen

Master’s Poster – Lindsey Drewes

Doctoral Poster – Jason Mihalik, MS, CAT(C), ATC

Master’s Oral – Peter Fath, MEd, ATC

Doctoral Oral – Anh-Dung Nguyen, MSEd, ATC


Undergraduate Poster – Ben Goerger, ATC

Master’s Poster – Stephanie Lynch, MA, ATC

Doctoral Poster – Lauren C. Kramer, PhD, ATC

Master’s Oral – Johna K. Register, ATC

Doctoral Oral – Anh-Dung Nguyen, MSEd, ATC

2001 – 2005 Winners


Undergraduate Poster – Crystal Seamon, ATC

Master’s Poster – David Tomchuk, ATC, CSCS

Doctoral Poster – Bradley T. Hayes, PhD, ATC

Master’s Oral – Rebecca lopez, MS, ATC, LAT

Doctoral Oral – Jatin Ambegaonkar, MS, ATC


Undergraduate Poster – Elicia N. Bennett, ATC

Master’s Poster – Nicholas Martin, MS, ATC/L

Doctoral Poster – Todd C. Sander, PhD, ATC, PT

Master’s Oral – Eric D. McVey, MEd, ATC

Doctoral Oral – Riann M. Palmieri, PhD, ATC


Undergraduate Poster – Stephanie Paris, SAT

Master’s Poster – Amanda J. Nelson, ATC

Doctoral Poster – Brian Ragan, ATC

Master’s Oral – Steven P. Broglio, BA, ATC

Doctoral Oral – Cathy Brown, MA, ATC 2002

Undergraduate Poster – Anna M. Mychaskiw

Master’s Poster – Cheri Drysdale, MEd, ATC

Doctoral Poster – Todd A. Evans, MA, ATC, CSCS

Master’s Oral – Tricia J. Hubbard, ATC

Doctoral Oral – Kevin Tsang, PhD, ATC


Student Poster Awards sponsored by NFL Charities

First Place-Tie: Yan Ying Ju, MS, PT, ATC & Jeff W. Otte, MS, ATC

Third Place: Jessica Serwa, MS, ATC