Boston Children's Hospital has announced a $14.7 million grant from the National Football League to study the potential long-term neurologic health consequences of concussions and sub-concussive injuries among former NFL players.
Concerns about the neurological health consequences of repeat concussions sustained during play has been growing in the medical and football communities. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a pathological condition associated with an abnormal buildup of tau proteins in the brain, has been reported in post-mortem studies of a number of former NFL players.
The BCH study will track former players, including up to twenty-five hundred who were previously surveyed in 2001, with annual follow-up health assessments. Researchers at Boston Children's Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center, in collaboration with researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and University Orthopedic Center in State College, Pennsylvania, will evaluate players for connections between their clinical outcomes and abnormal tau buildup and will examine other risk factors for adverse neurologic health outcomes.
Building on previous research from Boston Children's and Beth Israel Deaconess, the project also will conduct preclinical laboratory studies focused on potential therapies for slowing the progression of and preventing neurologic health problems, including CTE. The most effective will be translated into clinical intervention studies for former NFL players identified as being at risk.
"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," said William 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."