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DoD, NCAA to Study Concussion, Traumatic Brain Injury

June 10, 2014

The Department of Defense and the National Collegiate Athletic Association will conduct a $30 million study of concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Three Big 10 university research teams will lead the effort, which expects to study 37,000 young people from 30 different schools over the course of three years. The grant also covers a public relations campaign to encourage reporting of brain trauma and change the “a culture of underreporting symptoms.

Sarah Jenkins of Project Downrange and wife of veteran suffering from TBI, finds the research “noble” but she is puzzled by its beginning.

“The research will only enroll student athletes from the NCAA over a three year period,” said Jenkins, “and furnish the students with “head impact sensors” that will allow the researchers to analyze the process of the brain once injured.

“Every injury is unique to the event.  Limiting the data that is to be analyzed will limit the result of how to treat it.  Why not include our brave men and women that are serving in the military?”

“This study great step in trying to understand a difficult issue that is unique to each traumatic event,” continued Jenkins.  “Comprehensive results would also analyze other activities that are acknowledged to experience a high rate of traumatic brain injuries.”

Teams from Indiana University School of Medicine, the University of Michigan, and the Medical College of Wisconsin, will lead the effort,  named the Concussion Assessment, Research and Education (CARE) Consortium.

As put it,

  • Indiana University will serve as the Administrative and Operations Core and will be the central coordination center for the CARE Consortium. Led by Thomas W. McAllister, M.D., chair of the IU School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, Indiana will provide fiduciary oversight as well as data and analysis management, bioinformatics, biospecimen, and clinical trial support resources for the Consortium.
  • The University of Michigan will lead the Longitudinal Clinical Study Core, a prospective, multi-institution clinical research protocol whose aim will be to study the natural history of concussion among NCAA student-athletes.  This investigation will be the largest ever of its type. Steven Broglio, Ph.D., ATC, associate professor in the School of Kinesiology and director of the NeuroSport Research Laboratory, will lead the effort.
  • The Medical College of Wisconsin will direct the Advanced Research Core. Led by Dr. Michael McCrea, Professor of Neurosurgery and Director of Brain Injury Research at MCW, this effort will include cutting-edge studies that incorporate head impact sensor technologies, advanced neuroimaging, biological markers and detailed clinical studies to examine the acute effects and early pattern of recovery from sport-related concussion.  Ultimately, the work is designed to more fully inform a comprehensive understanding of sport-related concussion and traumatic brain injury.

According to the NCAA, 75 percent of the funding, or about $23 million, will fund a study, while the remainder will try to change the culture on concussion.

Participants will receive a comprehensive preseason evaluation for concussion and will be monitored in the event of an injury. The investigation will be the largest ever of its type, offering critical insight to the risks, treatment and management of concussion.

The remaining 25 percent of the funding will finance an educational grand challenge aimed at changing important concussion safety behaviors and the culture of concussion reporting and management.

The research may or may not have clear military implications:

“With these tools, we hope to encourage better prevention, protection and treatment methods on the sports field and ultimately, on the battlefield,” said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline. “Culturally, self-reporting head injuries or reporting others who display head injury symptoms is seen by some a sign of weakness. We hope to change that by arming physicians and scientists with better clinical data, and by creating educational programs to increase understanding of the importance of diagnostics for immediate action and tracking for follow-up treatment.”