Medical College receives $5.5 million grant from Department of Defense for concussion study

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a four-year, $5.5 million grant from the United States Department of Defense to develop a full understanding of concussions.

The integrated investigation, which involves studying 900 athletes from 10 local high schools and two local colleges, will broaden on concussion research already taking place at MCW. The research is led by Dr. Michael McCrea, who serves as a professor of neurosurgery and neurology and the director of brain research at MCW.

“The science of concussion has greatly advanced in the last decade, but it is still a significant problem for our sports players, our war fighters, and anyone who takes a significant blow to the head,” McCrea said. “However, a comprehensive model of concussion is yet to be developed. This will be the most comprehensive study of concussion to date, and as we integrate all the methodologies involved in investigating traumatic brain injury, we expect to see a significant correlation between the different markers—and that will give us answers.”

Mild traumatic brain injuries, otherwise known as concussions, are known to cause serious disruption in the body, physically, cognitively and behaviorally. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.7 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury every year, three-quarters of which are concussions.
The Department of Defense is interested in concussion research, according to MCW spokeswoman Maureen Mack, because traumatic brain injuries inflict a great number of servicemen and women.

In the study, 900 athletes will undergo pre-exposure baseline clinical, genetic and biological studies. Concussed athletes will then undergo extensive post-injury follow-ups, as will their non-injured peers. Those studies will be repeated at numerous intervals, which will allow the researchers to create a diagnostic and predictive value for each marker of concussion.

Ultimately, the project is intended to advance knowledge of concussions and to improve clinical care in military, sports and civilian populations.

MCW investigators collaborating on the research with McCrea include Shi-Jiang Li, professor of biophysics and director of the Center for Imaging Research; Matthew Budde, assistant professor of neurosurgery; Kevin Koch, associate professor of biophysics; L. Tugan Muftuler, associate professor of neurosurgery; Dr. Lin Nelson, neurosurgery resident; Andrew Nencka, assistant professor of biophysics; and Brian Stemper, associate professor of neurosurgery.

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