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NCAA, DoD launch concussion study

$30 million alliance includes funding for largest study to date on concussion, novel educational approaches

The NCAA and the U.S. Department of Defense are embarking on a landmark $30 million initiative to enhance the safety of student-athletes and service members.

Announced at the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit, the NCAA-DoD joint initiative will include the most comprehensive study of concussion and head impact exposure ever conducted.

Roughly 75 percent of the money will fund the study, which will enroll an estimated 37,000 male and female NCAA student-athletes over the three-year study period. 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.

“NCAA schools have placed a priority on improved concussion management, but we still have many unanswered questions in this area,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert. “We believe in the incredible potential of this research. Student-athletes will be first to benefit from this effort, but it also will help to more accurately diagnose, treat and prevent concussions among service men and women, youth sports participants and the broader public.”

The research will be managed by the Concussion Assessment, Research and Education Consortium, or CARE, co-chaired by principal investigators at three research institutions:

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.

The consortium’s work will expand upon the NCAA National Sport Concussion Outcomes Study, an existing multi-site, longitudinal investigation of concussive and repetitive head impacts in NCAA student-athletes. The Advanced Research Core also will leverage existing collaborative research networks, such as the National Institutes of Health TRACK-TBI and the DoD’s Project Head to Head.

 

Educational grand challenge

The educational grand challenge, which will open for submissions this September, seeks academic and private sector innovation to help change concussion safety behaviors and the culture of concussion reporting and management.

The immediate goal is to identify a novel, multi-media approach to educating student-athletes, coaches and other influencers about the risks of concussion and the need to report brain injuries in themselves and others. The content for the program will be established, so the challenge is open to any and all applicants who believe they can create an engaging multi-media education program.

The long-term challenge will seek research proposals to identify key factors and ways to change the behavior of college student-athletes around concussion, and those who contribute to a culture of underreporting symptoms.

“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.”

 

What political and athletics leaders are saying about studying concussion:

The NCAA and U.S. Department of Defense’s landmark $30 million initiative to enhance the safety of student-athletes and service members will include the most comprehensive study of concussion and head impact exposure ever conducted. Several leaders in athletics and concussion research gathered Thursday for the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit, the launching point for the initiative. Here is what some of those leaders had to say about the importance of studying concussion:

President Barack Obama:
“Sports teach us about teamwork and hard work and what it takes to succeed not just on the field but in life. I learned so many lessons playing sports that I carry on to this day, even to the presidency.  And still, when I need to relax and clear my head, I turn to sports.”

"All across the country parents are also having a more troubling conversation, and that’s about the risks of concussions.  There’s a lot of concern, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. … The awareness is improved today, but not by much.  So the total number of young people who are impacted by this early on is probably bigger than we know. As parents, though, we want to keep them safe, and that means we have to have better information.  We have to know what these issues are.  And the fact is, we don’t have solid numbers, and that tells me that at every level we’re all still trying to fully grasp what’s going on with this issue.”

“We need more athletes to understand how important it is to do what we can to prevent injuries and to admit them when they do happen.  We have to change a culture that says you suck it up.  Identifying a concussion and being able to self-diagnose that this is something that I need to take care of doesn’t make you weak -- it means you’re strong.”

“Sports are vital to this country and it’s a responsibility for us to make sure that young, talented kids like Tori (Bellucci) are able to participate as safely as possible and that we are doing our job, both as parents and school administrators, coaches, to look after them the way they need to be looked after.  That’s job No. 1.”

“Today, by the way, I’m proud to announce a number of new commitments and partnerships from the folks in this room that are going to help us move the ball forward on this issue.  The NCAA and the Department of Defense are teaming up to commit $30 million for concussion education and a study involving up to 37,000 college athletes, which will be the most comprehensive concussion study ever.  And our service academies -- Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard -- are all signed up to support this study in any way that they can. … These efforts are going to make a lot of difference for a lot of people — from soldiers on the battlefield to students out on the football field.”

Brian Hainline, NCAA Chief Medical Officer
“The clinical study that we put together was to say, well lets really look at the member institutions and try to get as many as we can to actually follow a similar protocol, which would be that every single student-athlete undergoes a baseline concussion protocol, and after a concussion every SA then receives a very rigorous protocol following the personnel for up to six months and then everyone is retested on a yearly basis.”

“We're ready to launch the study. It’s going to be terribly exciting, and the other great part about it is that once we have a similar clinical database that we’ll be allowed to do advanced research as well.”

“One of our dreams is that we’ll be able to take the foundational research and extend it to high school and youth.”

Highlights

The NCAA and U.S. Department of Defense are funding a $30 million concussion initiative.

It will include the most comprehensive study of concussion ever conducted.

The aim is to more accurately diagnose, treat and prevent concussion among NCAA student-athletes, service men and women, and the broader public.

Meet the Researchers

Thomas W. McAllister, M.D., chair of the Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry

Steven Broglio, Ph.D., ATC, associate professor in the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology and director of the NeuroSport Research Laboratory

Michael McCrea, Ph.D., professor of neurosurgery and director of brain injury research at the Medical College of Wisconsin

Breaking Down the Partnership