Indiana researchers are playing a significant role in a White House effort to address concussions in youth sports. The Indiana University School of Medicine will take part in a three-year $30 million concussion research and education initiative in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense, the NCAA and other universities. Purdue University engineer Eric Nauman is also taking part in a White House summit today on the issue.

May 29, 2014

News Release

Indianapolis, Ind. — 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 Indiana University School of Medicine in collaboration with the University of Michigan and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

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.

Source: Indiana University

May 29, 2014

News Release

West Lafayette, Ind. — Five years of probing the brains of teenage football players reveals a disturbing truth – more than half of those who never sustain a concussion suffer lingering cognitive disability because of repeated subconcussive blows to the head.

The Purdue University Neurotrauma Group has been examining the brains of scores of high school football players over the past five seasons and discovered that the hundreds of hits these players take to the head each season has an immediate and lingering detrimental effect on how their brains function.

Biomedical engineering professor Tom Talavage says fMRI exams reveal that even in athletes never diagnosed with concussions, activity in portions of the brain most prone to impacts begins to shut down, and basic cognitive tasks become more difficult to perform even in the course of one high school season.

“Just increasing efforts to improve concussion diagnosis or even prevent concussions is a waste of time and taxpayer money,” Talavage said. “We need to figure out how to reduce the number of hits to these kids' heads.”

Purdue research using helmet sensors and sideline computers revealed that high school players receive up to 1,800 hits to the head per season, some ranging as high in force as 250 Gs. Purdue engineer Eric Nauman, who will be at the White House summit on Thursday (May 29), has developed new helmet and liner technology that reduces the impact to the brain by 50 percent. Talavage also suggests fewer contact drills during practices and a baseball-style “hit count” that, when exceeded, automatically sidelines a player.

“Current helmet technology, which has hardly improved over the past 40 years, was designed to prevent skull fractures,” Nauman said. “It does a good job at that, but the helmets were never designed to significantly protect the brain itself.”

Purdue Neurotrauma Group research on football concussions has been featured in Sports Illustrated, on ESPN, HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, PBS Frontline and NOVA, NBC Nightly News, CNN, BBC and others.

Source: Purdue University

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