November 28, 2018

Dr. Ruben Echemendia, Clinical Director of UOC Concussion Care Clinic in State College, PA is a Co-Principal Investigator on a $14.7M grant from the NFL to Boston Children’s Hospital that will examine the 20-year neurologic health outcomes in former NFL players



Boston Children’s Hospital has received $14.7 million from the National Football League to study potential long-term neurologic health consequences of concussions and sub-concussive injuries sustained by former NFL players. 

The research team will be led by William Meehan, MD, of Boston Children’s Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center, in collaboration with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Medical College of Wisconsin and University Orthopedic Center - State College, PA.  Combined with results of a survey conducted in 2001, the project will give a prospective view of health outcomes over a 20-year span.

Concern has been growing in medical, football, and other sports communities that repetitive concussions sustained during play may lead to chronic neurologic health problems later in life. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) — a pathological condition defined as abnormal tau proteins in the brain — has been reported in post-mortem studies of former NFL football players.

“There is a pressing need for data-driven approaches to better understand the risk, incidence, characteristics, progression, and treatment of neurologic health problems faced by former NFL players,” says Meehan, the study’s principal investigator.  “A data-driven approach is also needed to determine the potential effects of sport-related concussions and sub-concussive blows — including the potential for CTE.”

The study will track up to 2,500 former NFL players previously surveyed in 2001 with annual follow-up health assessments. Former players who exhibit impairment will undergo repeated, detailed in-person research evaluations. The researchers will assess for associations between clinical outcomes and abnormal tau buildup as well as examine other risk factors for neurologic health outcomes.

Preventing neurologic complications

Simultaneously, building on previous research from Boston Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the project will conduct preclinical laboratory studies to investigate several potential therapies for preventing neurologic health problems, including CTE, after injury and for slowing their progression. The most effective therapies will then be translated into clinical intervention studies for former football players identified as being at risk.

Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have been investigating the acute and chronic effects of sport-related concussions and sub-concussive blows on neurologic health over a decade. 

“This new study is part of a continued effort to improve player safety and quality of life for athletes of all ages,” says Meehan.

Kevin Guskiewicz, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kun Ping Lu, MD, PhD and Xiao Zhen Zhou, MD, both of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Michael McCrea, PhD, of the Medical College of Wisconsin and Ruben Echemendia, PhD, of University Orthopedic Center - State College, PA are co-principal investigators on the study. 

About the Scientific Advisory Board

Through the NFL’s Play Smart. Play Safe initiative, $40 million in funding was allotted for medical research, primarily dedicated to neuroscience. The NFL assembled a Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) comprising leading independent experts, doctors, scientists and clinicians to develop and lead a clear process to identify and support compelling proposals for scientific research. The SAB is chaired by Peter Chiarelli, U.S. Army General (Retired), former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, and former CEO of One Mind, a brain research-related non-profit organization. 

Dr. Ruben Echemendia, Clinical Director of UOC Concussion Care Clinic

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