Cynthia R LaBella

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Calculated based on number of publications stored in Pure and citations from Scopus
Calculated based on number of publications stored in Pure and citations from Scopus

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Personal profile

Research Interests

As medical director for the Institute for Sports Medicine (ISM) at Lurie Children’s since 2004, I have extensive experience caring for children and adolescents with sports-related injuries. I have served as team physician for high school, college, elite, and professional teams. I am currently the team physician for DeLaSalle high school, Moody Bible Institute, North Side Youth Football League, and the USA Rhythmic Gymnastics team. I served on the executive committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness (COSMF) for the past 11 years, and for the last 4 years I have served as the committee chairperson. I also serve on the sports medicine advisory committees for the Illinois High School Association, US Soccer, and Pop Warner Football.

My clinical focus is on treatment and prevention of sports related injuries in pediatric, adolescent and young adult athletes at all levels of competition. This includes non-operative care of musculoskeletal injuries, concussions, and medical conditions affecting sports participation or physical activity.

My research has focused on identifying risk factors for injury in youth sports and developing strategies for prevention with focus on three specific domains: 1. Knee injury prevention in female adolescent athletes; 2. Youth concussion diagnostic tools and risk factors; and 3. Effects of sports specialization in young athletes. I have won two awards for my research demonstrating that a coach-led neuromuscular warm-up can significantly reduce knee injuries in girls’ soccer and basketball players at Chicago Public High Schools. In this study we recruited approximately 1500 athletes (~100 teams) from 30 high schools. Our findings led to ISM receiving a renewable philanthropic grant form Kohl’s Cares to disseminate this injury prevention program via live and online training sessions for coaches, parents and athletes. My research in the area of youth concussions has focused on evaluating whether the clinical tools commonly used for evaluating concussions in adults (the Post-Concussion Symptom Scale and Balance Error Scoring System) are reliable and valid for evaluating concussions and monitoring recovery in children and adolescents. I am currently the lead investigator on a longitudinal study of children with concussions to track the effects on future sports participation, risk for injury, and social, emotional and cognitive functioning. Since the study began 4 years ago, 500 subjects have been recruited from our ISM concussion program. We recruited a subset of these subjects to participate in a collaborative project with Nina Kraus, PhD, Professor of Neurobiology & Physiology and Otolaryngology at Northwestern University. This project used auditory evoked potentials to measure how the brain processes speech during recovery from a concussion. The results of this groundbreaking study, “Auditory biological marker of concussion in children,” were published in the December 2016 issue of Nature:Scientific Reports, and was featured in the New York Times and Washington Post. Dr. Kraus and I have partnered on additional research utilizing this auditory biological marker to measure the effects of playing two seasons of tackle football on the brain health of youth football players. These data were presented as an abstract at the American medical Society for Sports Medicine annual meeting in April 2018. In the domain of sports specialization, Neeru Jayanthi, MD and I collaborated on a large clinical study to investigate the risk of injury related to sports specialization in young athletes. This research was the first to show that sports specialization alone is a risk factor for injury, independent of and athlete’s age and training volume. Subsequently, I partnered with George Chiampas MD, medical director for US Soccer, to conduct a survey of just over 1200 male youth soccer players in the US Soccer developmental academy, investigating the effects of sports specialization on injury. Our results were presented as an abstract at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in September 2017 and our manuscript was accepted for publication in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine.

Certifications and Licenses

Sports Medicine
Sports Medicine (Pediatrics)

Training Experience

1997Residency, Johns Hopkins Hospital
2001Fellowship, University of North Carolina Hospitals

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy

Education/Academic qualification

Medicine, MD, Cornell University Medical College

… → 1994

Research interests keywords

  • Brain Injury
  • Injury Prevention
  • Preventive Medicine
  • Sports Injuries
  • Sports Medicine


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