ACSM Research in Action: The ACSM NASA Space Physiology Grant

By Amanda Zaleski

I am a third year doctoral student from the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Connecticut. I was the recipient of the 2015 American College of Sports Medicine NASA Space Physiology Grant for my project entitled “The Effect of Compression Socks on Blood Clot Risk During Travel in Oral Contraceptive Using Women.” This research study sought to examine the influence of estrogen-based oral contraceptives on blood clot risk in active women at flight. Estrogen-based oral contraceptives increase the risk of a venous thrombosis (blood clot) fivefold, while the combination of travel more than hours and endurance activity increases the risk 2.5 times. Given the growing popularity of marathon running, this has serious implications for the increasing numbers of athletes who travel long distances to and from competitive events. In addition to athletes, active individuals who travel frequently, but do not run marathons (i.e., military personnel, NASA flight crew and aviation personnel) may also be at high risk for blood clots. Common-sense recommendations call for the use of compression socks to mitigate travel-induced increased blood clot risk in active women using contraception; however, the efficacy of this intervention had yet to be examined prior to our study.

The ACSM NASA Space Physiology Grant afforded me the opportunity to formulate, execute and coordinate my own research question within an academic environment that solely exists to support and mentor junior investigators such as myself. Specifically, the results of this specific project resulted in two abstracts, a manuscript (in preparation), seven  presentations at the regional and national level, and an award from the University of Connecticut Graduate Student Research Forum; all experiences and honors that will undoubtedly serve to strengthen future grant and employment applications upon graduation.

The biggest piece of advice that I can give to other students that are considering applying for the ACSM NASA Space Physiology grant is to consider how your project can ultimately contribute to the bigger picture. I would encourage students to explore the major priority areas set forth by the NASA Human Research Program as well as the mission statement of the ACSM Foundation. How can the results of your research question uniquely serve both the advancement of sports medicine as well as our understanding of human physiology during flight? We are so close in our technological advancements to be able to offer commercial space flight, yet research that isolates the physiological adaptations to the unique stressors of space flight is still in its infancy. If you really stop and think about it, the fact that this particular grant mechanism even exists symbolizes such an exciting time for us as scientists and humans!

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