In conjunction with the Big Ten Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the Big Ten and Ivy League have announced a collaborative effort to study head trauma among athletes. The joint research effort will bring together 20 institutions and nearly 18,000 student-athletes competing in more than 30 sports, providing an unprecedented body of data.
"The opportunity for collaborating on such a landmark series of studies with the Ivy League is unprecedented in sports medicine," said Dr. Dennis Molfese, Big Ten/CIC research collaboration director and the director of the University of Nebraska's Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, in a press release. "Frankly, this is a unique moment in the history of science. There is no question that this research program will be greatly strengthened by bringing together in a genuine partnership the outstanding and cutting-edge scientists, athletic trainers and team physicians of both conferences to better understand and reduce as well as treat head injuries."
All schools involved in the project will agree to the same set of baseline testing criteria for student-athletes at the beginning of each season. Unlike prior studies that have focused on the impact of concussions on brain function, this study will be able to track the cumulative effects of head injuries and multiple concussions, as well as allow comparisons between athletes who have suffered an injury and those who have not.
"No one ever plans on getting a concussion," Molfese told The Capital Times of Madison, Wis. "The problem right now is that most of the great concussion research is done on those who have already suffered a head injury. The key is to do these tests before the start of a season, and then that will give us a massive data set that we can access and do different kinds of analysis on."
The partnership builds on the research each conference has done independently. In May 2010, the Big Ten introduced the first conference-wide concussion management plan, and has also created a centralized data-sharing platform for concussion research. In September 2011, the Ivy League implemented a series of concussion-curbing measures, the culmination of a year of reviewing and tracking. Not only will this new collaboration allow universities to share research but also accelerate the development of protocol and best practices in athletics and other areas.
"What we're learning working with student-athletes has a lot of implications for all sorts of domains of our daily lives," said Molfese. "We're very hopeful that by combining the powers of these two conferences, with so many world-class scientists at the top of their field, that our ability to make a breakthrough in this field seems incredibly likely."