Joint NCAA-Defense grant will fund $30 million in concussion research at IU, Michigan, Wisconsin

June 5, 2014

The U.S. Department of Defense and the NCAA have announced a three-year, $30 million concussion research and education alliance. The Concussion Assessment, Research and Education Consortium will involve athletes from as many as 30 universities and be led by the IU School of Medicine in collaboration with the University of Michigan and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Thomas McAllister

Thomas W. McAllister, M.D.

The alliance, unveiled at a news briefing by President Barack Obama on Thursday at the White House, will fund long-term research seeking a much deeper understanding of concussion injuries; how they impact the brain; how and to what extent the brain recovers; and how treatment and prevention can be improved. It will also develop education programs meant to change the culture of concussion reporting and management.

Officials of the Defense Department and the NCAA, each of which will contribute $15 million, said their partnership reflects their mutual interest in improving prevention of and treatment for both college athletes and military service members.

"Although we and many other researchers have been studying concussions for many years, there is much we still don't understand about what happens to the brain when someone has a concussion, and we're not sure how long those changes in the brain may last," said Thomas W. McAllister, M.D., chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the IU School of Medicine.

"When someone tells us that they feel fine and are ready to return to a game, or to duty, we're not sure whether their brain has fully healed or not," said Dr. McAllister, who will lead the research project's administrative and operations center at the IU School of Medicine.

In addition to administrative oversight, the IU team will provide data management and analysis, bioinformatics, biospecimen storage, and clinical trial support.

At Michigan, a research group led by Steve Broglio, Ph.D., associate professor of kinesiology, will expand an existing NCAA long-term study of concussion and repetitive head impacts among college athletes at multiple institutions. The project is a longitudinal study, meaning that data will be collected on the same individuals over time.

Plans call for an initial collection of data on about 7,200 student athletes from 12 institutions. Over the next two years, those numbers will grow to about 37,000 students at 30 sites.

At the Medical College of Wisconsin, a team led by Mike McCrea, Ph.D., professor of neurosurgery and neurology, will conduct a variety of research projects including work on advanced neuroimaging, biological markers and clinical studies as well as development of impact sensor technologies. The work will incorporate the long-term data collected from college athletes.

The education portion of the project, overseen by the NCAA, will develop a state-of-the-art multimedia education program targeting athletes, coaches and administrators with the goal of changing cultural attitudes about concussions.

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