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Big Ten Conference and Ivy League Host Head Injury Summit

Park Ridge, Ill. – The Big Ten Conference and the Ivy League, in conjunction with the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), hosted the Big Ten-Ivy League Head Injury Summit on July 18-19 in Park Ridge, Ill. A total of 65 individuals from 23 institutions, representing each member institution from the Big Ten, Ivy League and CIC, participated in the two-day event in an effort to engage in collaborative discussions and to refine the strategic priorities of the historic, unprecedented research initiative that was announced by the conferences in June 2012. The summit provided an open forum for the subject-matter experts in attendance to review the current clinical and research efforts that exist on each campus, and allowed the group to define the short- and long-term areas of emphasis to address.

The first day of the summit provided an opportunity for the participants to discuss the history and vision of the collaboration, while also defining the goals and outcomes of the meeting. The group received a comprehensive analysis of the existing research literature on the topic of traumatic brain injury and sports from Thomson-Reuters representatives. Through this report, it was discovered that research papers on this topic that are authored by either a Big Ten/CIC or Ivy League institution are cited on a more frequent basis than research papers authored by other sources, and are published at a greater rate in top quartile journals. Further, research papers that are authored by a combination of both Big Ten/CIC and Ivy League institutions are cited at the highest rate in this category and are published in top quartile journals at the highest rate as well, showing the benefits of collaborative research between the Big Ten/CIC and Ivy League.

The remainder of the afternoon on day one was spent discussing potential funding opportunities that exist for research initiatives, strategies for data collection amongst the member institutions, as well as the current partnerships that exist on campus between researchers and athletics. The first day concluded with round table discussions that focused on research collaborations between academics and athletics in the context of traumatic brain injury. Each group, which consisted of a cross-section of representatives from multiple institutions and disciplines, examined topics such as successes and challenges that exist in collaborative projects, as well as critical research priorities and opportunities to explore.

The summit concluded on day two with reports from the roundtable discussions, and review of next steps through the assignment of action items to address moving forward. Through the roundtable group reports, participants were able to see commonalities that existed amongst the different groups, as well as significant areas of emphasis that materialized. One particular area of emphasis that was identified was finding ways to collect meaningful, significant data that could be used in a central repository for surveillance and/or research purposes. The group created several working subcommittees to address specific next steps, including Institutional Review Board (IRB) processes, funding sources, project administration and staffing, among others. Representatives from both conferences will continue to communicate and develop objectives that can be addressed in a collaborative environment through a shared vision of student-athlete well-being.

What the Participants Had to Say:

James E. Delany, Big Ten Conference Commissioner

“We were so encouraged to see the level of commitment and collaboration between representatives from the Big Ten and Ivy League during last week’s summit.  We still have so much to learn in this area which is just one of the reasons why we think it’s so important to keep providing these forums for our experts to come together and explore.  We know that protecting the health and safety of our student-athletes is a shared responsibility and we were thrilled to take part.”

Robin Harris, Ivy League Executive Director

“It was gratifying to observe the participants from 23 institutions, who serve in various roles on their campuses, connect in a meaningful way through formal and informal discussions during the summit to exchange information and ideas and to lay the foundation for establishing collaborative research endeavors and unified data collection.  The summit served as a powerful launching point for our collaboration and established a framework for moving forward.”

Dr. Brian Hainline, NCAA Chief Medical Officer

“The Big Ten and Ivy League have embarked on a cutting-edge research initiative that serves as a new model of cooperation between the conferences and the NCAA.  This initiative will help to further our understanding of the diagnosis and management of sports-related concussion.  Additionally, through sharing and analysis of common data elements in injury surveillance, the ability to make data-driven recommendations for student-athlete health and safety will advance considerably.”

Dr. Dennis Molfese, University of Nebraska Professor of Psychology

“This first joint meeting of the Big Ten-Ivy League collaboration to advance research on concussion was historic. Our hope is that out of our discussions and presentations, groups of labs across both conferences will intensify their scientific efforts, developing points of collaboration that will ultimately advance the discussion on brain injury.  Such an effort just seems like a good idea to pursue – there is incredible talent cross the 23 world-class Universities that make up this collaboration. If we can obtain baseline/pre-concussion data and then track athletes longitudinally with all the tools and expertise that we possess, I think we can attain major breakthroughs in establishing a universal definition of concussion, better and more systematic ways to study recovery from brain injury, as well as more active and effective forms of intervention to restore cognitive and motor functions following brain injury.  We are attempting to do something that has not been done before – building the largest coordinated research task force involving all the major groups that work in one way or another with our student-athletes. As a result, we hope develop better training procedures to safeguard our athletes as well as better means of identification and intervention.”

Dr. Art Maerlender, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth; Director, Pediatric Neuropsychology

“I think it is fair to say that there was broad support for this group to establish an infrastructure that encourages and enhances research across 23 of the most significant research institutions in the world. The level of interest, willingness to engage collaboratively and the enthusiasm expressed by each of the representatives was greater than I had anticipated.  There is a large quantity of concussion research, but the truth is that it is difficult research to do, and getting large enough sample sizes has been a rate-limiting step.  Establishing quality benchmarks and uniform procedures in larger studies will help to produce top-quality data that can move the field much further.  While each of our institutions are fierce competitors on the field, collaboration in the laboratory is clearly the effective and productive way to go.  The Thomson-Reuters data made this point very clear.  We have an opportunity here that will move concussion research, and traumatic brain injury research in general, farther and faster than before. The Big Ten-Ivy League Collaboration sets precedence, and other groups are already discussing ways to create their own collaborations.  This is very exciting and our student-athletes will benefit immensely.”

Dr. Margot Putukian, Princeton University Director of Athletic Medicine, Head Team Physician

“The summit provided an excellent opportunity to share and collaborate with others within the Ivy League and the Big Ten to discuss current knowledge and research regarding to sport-related concussion. It allowed for team physicians and athletic trainers currently providing care to the student athletes at our institutions and researchers at our institutions to discuss what collaborative research we’ve been doing and, more importantly, what we can achieve together moving forward. I’m very optimistic the summit set the stage for further, more powerful collective work for the future that will improve the health and safety of our student-athletes.”

Chris Nowinski, Co-Director at BU Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy; Consultant for Ivy League

“It was exciting to see the dedication of the researchers to advancing our scientific understanding of the consequences of brain trauma from the 23 Ivy League and Big Ten/CIC institutions. With the right coordination and commitment, this collaboration will make great strides toward answering many urgent research questions, and ultimately make sports safer for participants.”

Dr. Jeff Kovan, Michigan State University Head Team Physician

“To be part of a cross-conference meeting of this magnitude, which allowed each of our Universities to share research initiatives currently under investigation relative to mTBI and sports concussion and explore collaborative projects, truly demonstrates the care and concern the Big Ten and Ivy League share in the well-being of their athletes and those that may someday become collegiate athletes.  Rarely do leaders from different disciplines, both clinical and research, have the opportunity to share ideas, develop a new data repository from our student-athletes that sustain head injuries and ultimately create collaborative research initiatives with the ultimate goal being to better care for all of our student-athletes, young and old alike.”

Dr. Seymon Sloubonov, Director of Penn State Sports Concussion Research and Services, Professor of Kinesiology and Neurosurgery

“Concussion in athletics is a growing public health concern with increased attention being focused on treatment and management of this puzzling epidemic. No single research laboratory, regardless of how well equipped and funded, is in a position to resolve a critical dilemma facing athletic trainers, coaches and medical practitioners: What is the time frame for safe return to sports participation after concussion?  I believe that the Big Ten-Ivy League Head Injury Summit has provided us with a wonderful opportunity to combine our intellectual resources in order to address numerous questions and controversies about sports-related concussion.  I was pleased to see a lot of enthusiasm among the participants to share their knowledge and, more importantly, to contribute to the filling scientific knowledge gaps at the junction between basic science and clinical management of sport-related concussions.”

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