Small But Mighty – Tennis Balls Can (But Rarely Do) Cause Head Injuries

It’s well known that playing football and soccer can cause head injuries, but how worried do we need to be about tennis?

Concussions are rare but can happen on the court, according to a study from Xin-Lin Gao, a mechanical engineering professor at SMU, and Yongqiang Li, a former SMU Ph.D. student who worked with Gao.

Mild traumatic brain injuries can occur when ball speed is higher than 40 meters per second, which is faster than a cheetah runs, or most amateur players serve the ball. Head injuries are more common when the ball strikes the side of the head and hits someone at a 90-degree angle.

Gao’s team reached its conclusions using a computer-generated tennis ball and a head model. The researchers applied an algorithm used to test rubber elasticity to determine how brain tissues would respond to a ball strike.

A computational study shows the effects of being struck by a tennis ball.

Transfer scholarships

From seeking tutoring for challenging classes to attending her first Oktoberfest, SMU junior transfer student Raissa Umwali is on the road to a great campus experience.

She is attending SMU on a full-tuition North Texas Community College Scholarship, awarded each year to 10 transfer students from surrounding community colleges.

“It took time to get used to the rigor and pace,” Raissa said. “But sometimes the things that look the scariest from afar aren’t that scary when they get closer.”

The Community College Scholarship is one of the most generous offered at SMU and is renewable for up to five terms. More than 275 students have received the transfer scholarship since its creation in 2004. The scholarship’s application deadline is April 1. To qualify, students must have completed 50 hours of transferrable community college work and achieved a 3.7 GPA. Visit to find out more about the program.

Aquatic center addition 

Mustang swimming and diving programs got a boost in December with the dedication of the 50-meter-long Holt Hickman Outdoor Pool. The new addition to SMU’s aquatic center makes SMU one of only a handful of universities with indoor and outdoor Olympic-size pools at the same facility.

“With the Holt Hickman Outdoor Pool at the Robson & Lindley Aquatics Center, SMU is even better positioned to attract exceptionally talented student-athletes as we enter the ACC in 2024,” SMU director of athletics Rick Hart said.

The new outdoor pool honors Holt Hickman ’54, a standout member of the Mustang swim team known for his business acumen and hometown spirit. Hickman served SMU and the city of Fort Worth in multiple capacities and received the key to the city of Fort Worth in 2011 in recognition of his lifetime achievements and contributions.

SMU dedicated the 50-meter-long Holt Hickman Outdoor Pool in December.

By the numbers

More than 600 SMU grads were honored last month at the university’s December Commencement Convocation.

• 671 degrees were awarded

• 50 students graduated with multiple degrees

• 67 international students from 21 countries received degrees

• 21 military veterans and 30 student athletes received degrees

• 37 graduates had studied abroad

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