Comprehensive concussion study gets $22.5M in new funding
The NCAA-DOD Concussion Assessment, Research and Education Consortium, known as the CARE Consortium, was established as part of the broader NCAA-DOD Grand Alliance in 2014, with the goals of understanding how concussions affect the brain and identifying ways to improve diagnosis, treatment and prevention.Led by Indiana University School of Medicine, the University of Michigan and the Medical College of Wisconsin, in collaboration with the Uniformed Services University, the study has collected data on more than 39,000 student-athletes and cadets at 30 colleges and military service academies — including more than 3,300 who have experienced concussions. This represents the largest sample of concussions ever researched in a single study.
The initial phase of the study — made possible by a joint NCAA-Department of Defense grant of $30 million — focused on the acute effects of concussions by evaluating concussed participants with a sequence of clinical and advanced research tests in the immediate hours, days and weeks after the injury, and comparing the results with baseline tests administered at the start of the study.
The new phase will include comprehensive testing of the participants when they leave college and up to four years after their collegiate sports or service academy career has ended. This expanded approach will enable researchers to study the intermediate and cumulative effects of concussion and repetitive head impact exposure. Importantly, researchers hope to differentiate between the effects of concussion, repetitive head impact, and sports participation with no history of either concussion or repetitive head impact exposure.
“We have gathered important information about the short-term effects of concussions over the past few years, but there is still a lot we do not understand about how our brains respond to different types of impact over time,” said Dr. Thomas W. McAllister, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Indiana University School of Medicine and the leader of the study’s administrative and operations center. “By comparing these groups across multiple years, we think we can parse out the effects of concussions, versus repetitive head impacts, versus normal life at university. This is critical for us to make informed decisions that protect our athletes, members of the military and other members of our communities.”
The evaluations will include clinical tests to assess attributes such as balance and memory but also will probe changes to participants’ psychological health to determine what role, if any, concussions and repetitive head impacts may have on depression, anxiety and emotional control. Researchers also will continue to conduct advanced research tests, including genetic analysis, brain imaging and blood tests to measure biomarkers associated with inflammation and nervous system dysfunction. It is conceivable that the advanced research tests will help identify genes and other objective markers that render an athlete or cadet more or less susceptible to concussion or injury from repetitive head impacts.
The NCAA is providing $12.5 million in funding over two years for the second stage of research. The Department of Defense approved a two-year grant of nearly $10 million.
IU Bloomington is among the institutions with athletes participating in the study.