BU research team begins new phase of concussion study

BLOOMSBURG—Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania is continuing its role in a nationwide study with the NCAA on concussions with a key part being played by its  clinical athletic training; students, giving them a gratifying glimpse into their future career field.

A team led by Joseph Hazzard, director of BU’s Institute for Concussion Research and Services and its clinical athletic training education program, recently spent a week at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y, assisting with baseline testing of cadets. The concussion screenings are the initial data point for this summer’s phase of the NCAA-Department of Defense Concussion Assessment, Research and Education (C.A.R.E.) Consortium. 

The study, now in its fourth year, includes 30 schools nationwide.

Hazzard said the cadets were assessed on balance utilizing the Balance Error Scoring System and were administered the Standardized Assessment of Concussion Test at the same station. In addition, they were administered the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test. The group of tested cadets included those who participate in athletics for West Point from a variety of sports including both genders, according Hazzard.

In its three years, the study has enrolled more than 28,000 participants, including student-athletes at 26 campuses and students at four military academies. More than 1,600 concussions have been recorded, nearly 300 in football alone, according to the CARE Consortium. Of those 1,600 injuries, the consortium says almost 150 have taken place at schools that are part of the study’s advanced research core, where student-athletes take part in neuroimaging, genetic testing and blood draws at predetermined intervals following an injury.

The advanced research core also is testing uninjured student-athletes from contact and noncontact sports to serve as control groups to determine the effects of exposure to lower-level impacts. Early data suggest these lower-intensity hits — like those routinely experienced by football linemen — could have a cumulative effect that can lead to injury, though the subject requires more analysis. 

The CARE research is part of the landmark $30 million NCAA-U.S. Department of Defense Grand Alliance, which is funding the most comprehensive study of concussion and head impact exposure ever conducted. The alliance also supports an educational grand challenge aimed at changing important concussion safety behaviors and the culture of concussion reporting and management.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 9,600 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Education, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.