The Big Ten Conference and the Ivy League, in conjunction with the Big Ten Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), have announced plans to engage in a co-sponsored, cross-institutional research collaboration to study the effects of head injuries in sports, continuing efforts dating back more than two years.
This historic collaboration brings together two prestigious academic and athletic entities, and allows for the coordination of ongoing efforts by each conference to research and address various aspects of head injuries in athletics, including concussions. The world-class academic and research capabilities of the institutions will help to promote a collaborative and collegial atmosphere to address a burgeoning issue impacting the welfare of athletes at all levels of sport.
“We are excited by the possibilities of this collaboration between Big Ten Conference and Ivy League institutions to continue our close examination of the effects of head injuries in athletics,” said Dr. Sally Mason, Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors chair and University of Iowa President. “It will provide an incredible boost to our ongoing efforts while reinforcing the priorities of institutional research and reciprocity between some of the nation’s top academic organizations.”
“The Ivy League is committed to fostering a safe and healthy environment for our student-athletes. We look forward to working with the Big Ten to continue to study the effects of concussions and head injuries in sport,” said Shirley Tilghman, Ivy League Council of Presidents chair and Princeton University President. “By pooling our expertise and resources, our institutions aim to significantly expand upon the research needed to improve long-term, concussion-prevention measures.”
“CIC member universities have collaborated for more than 50 years, but this is the deepest and most significant research and academic collaboration we’ve launched,” said Barbara McFadden Allen, CIC Executive Director. “It draws perfectly on the intersection of great medicine, great athletics and great academics that characterizes what is best in our universities. By working together across traditional boundaries, we can build the infrastructure to address the problem, assemble a much larger potential pool of athletes and draw upon the formidable research and medical fields and talents represented across the universities.”
“This is an exciting initiative and we expect the results of our efforts to advance our collective understanding of the effects of concussions and head injuries, and to extend beyond our two conferences,” said Dr. Jim Yong Kim, co-chair of the Ivy League Multi-Sport Concussion Committee and Dartmouth College President. “Combining our common interest and work to-date in researching and addressing concussion in sports will enhance the welfare and well-being of student-athletes across the various fields of competition.”
In May 2010, the Big Ten became the first collegiate conference to establish a conference-wide concussion management plan while in 2011 the Ivy League developed and enacted a series of concussion-curbing measures in the sport of football after a year-long review. Since September 2011, the two conferences have engaged in discussions to examine the feasibility and benefits of collaboration, while outlining the framework and objectives associated with the initiative. Through academic research and shared resources, the collaboration will promote positive and constructive change for injury assessment and improved long-term outcomes. In addition to establishing a core leadership group to help lead the initiative, each conference will identify researchers and related participants from each school, as well as a few selected external subject-matter experts. The intent of this effort is to develop a research network of sports medicine personnel, neurologists, neuropsychologists, neurosurgeons, biologists, epidemiologists and other experts to set up and implement research protocols across the group.
“Bringing our institutions together in this transformative initiative simply made sense,” said Dr. David Skorton, co-chair of the Ivy League Multi-Sport Concussion Committee and Cornell University President. “President Kim and I believe this collaboration will lead to new forms of preventive and therapeutic action to counter the immediate and long-term harm of concussions and enhance the well-being of our student-athletes.”
“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 University of Nebraska Director of the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior. “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.”
Formal collaboration between the Big Ten and the Ivy League will extend and enhance the work already undertaken by both conferences over the past two years in their prior and ongoing efforts to address issues related to head injuries in intercollegiate athletics, including:
- Developed a “Concussion Management Plan” for use by conference institutions, including baselines for return to academic and athletic activities (Big Ten, 2010);
- Conducted presidential discussions concerning the existing data and research regarding concussions in athletics and identified steps to enhance student-athlete safety (Ivy League, 2010);
- Developed a “Concussion Return to Play Checklist” and obtained agreement from athletic medicine staffs to use the checklist as a guide for their respective schools (Ivy League, 2011);
- Convened an ad hoc committee to review concussions in football and developed a series of recommendations, which were implemented in the fall of 2011, with the goal of lowering the incidence of concussion and subconcussive hits in football (Ivy League, 2011);
- Conducted a Head Injury Summit, with 40-plus attendees across several disciplines, including athletic medicine, neurology, neuropsychology, physics, engineering and biological sciences (Big Ten/CIC, 2011);
- Created a centralized data-sharing platform to enhance existing surveillance and research and accelerate new inquiries into concussions (Big Ten/CIC, 2011);
- Convened additional ad hoc committees to review concussions in men’s and women’s ice hockey, soccer and lacrosse and will make recommendations for those sports (Ivy League, 2012); and
- Launched a research initiative regarding how head injuries affect athletes in all sports (Big Ten/CIC, 2012).
The Big Ten and the Ivy League, through a commitment to broad-based programming for over 17,500 combined student-athletes, have the unique opportunity to be national leaders at the forefront of significant change. This collaborative effort will provide a broad population sample from which to obtain meaningful data on the incidence of head injuries in young adults, and will allow for the potential of longitudinal examinations into the health impact of head injuries as student-athletes transition into professional careers both on and off the field. Through a shared vision of student-athlete well-being, this effort reinforces and serves as a positive representation of the position of intercollegiate athletics within the higher education model.