A landmark $30 million research initiative announced last week by the NCAA and the Department of Defense could help the sporting goods industry improve the design of helmets and mouth guards, a leading concussion researcher told Sports Executive Weekly last week.


“As we learn more about the dynamics of head impact exposure, location type, linear and rotational acceleration, that type of data will inform product development over time,” said Dr. Michael McCrea in response to a question from Sports Executive Weekly. “Ultimately, this research is geared at injury prevention. We have not been able to make great strides along those lines as related to mouth guards and helmets, but this will allow us to make more informed decisions.”



A professor of neurosurgery and director of brain injury research at the Medical College of Wisconsin, McRea will direct the Advanced Research Core portion of the initiative that uses 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.

McCrea took questions from reporters in a conference call May 29 after joining other leading researches to announce the research initiative 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 the way athletes, coaches trainers and other stakeholders report and manage concussions.



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 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, which will be the largest ever study of the natural history of concussion among NCAA student-athletes. The Medical College of Wisconsin will direct the Advanced Research Core. The consortium’s work expands on existing NCAA research 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.

“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.”