A grant from the NCAA will kick off a ground-breaking, long-term study of the effects of concussion and other brain injuries among athletes, with Wauwatosa's taking a major role.
The National Sport Concussion Outcomes Study Consortium will be led by experts from the Medical College of Wisconsin, the University of Michigan, UCLA, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Over the course of the study, more than a thousand college athletes will be evaluated in an attempt to study the short-term and long-term effects of sports-related concussion.
Concussion injury has become a major topic of national discussion. Just last week, the Medical College announced it had received . The NCAA grant is for $400,000 with no deadline for completion.
Many states have adopted laws requiring school and club sports administrators to put in place more safeguards for youths, such as mandatory medical evaluations before any suspected concussion victim can return to play. The Wisconsin Legislature is currently considering such a law.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 1.7 million people experience a traumatic brain injury every year. Those injuries cause 275,000 hospitalizations. Many of those injuries occur in a sports setting.
In the NCAA-funded study, researchers plan to track the athletes after their college careers end and examine the long-term effects of head injuries, with a goal of gaining a more comprehensive understanding about concussion.
Those long-term effects have recently become a topic of heated discussion among retired players in contact sports after autopsies on deceased players revealed the development of a degenerative condition in the brain.
"We know the immediate effects of concussion, but are challenged in identifying the factors that lead to long-term damage," said Dr. Michael McCrea, the director of brain injury research at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and one of the principal investigators of the concussion outcomes study. "This data will provide a more comprehensive understanding of concussion, and will benefit the health of athletes in every sport."
Researchers will use a new mouth guard to study the dynamics of concussive blows and head injury. The mouth guard can sense and dynamics of head injury, and works similarly to the accelerometer sensors available in football helmets. The mouth guard widens the research to include non-helmeted sports such as soccer and lacrosse.
The Medical College of Wisconsin's role in the study is assisting in design and execution, management of the study base, and analysis and dissemination of the results.
Partnering institutions, from which the athlete subjects will also be recruited, are the University of Michigan, UCLA, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The study is expected to begin this summer.