By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2014 – The Defense Department and the National Collegiate Athletic Association are launching a landmark $30 million alliance initiative to enhance the safety of student-athletes and service members, Pentagon officials said today.
The initiative will fund a major clinical study with student-athletes from select NCAA member institutions to establish the natural history of concussion -- including risks, treatment and management -- with a focus on improving prevention, protection and treatment methods on the athletic field, during military training and in the combat theater, said Army Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Nadja Y. West, the Joint Staff surgeon.
"This grand alliance represents the most comprehensive investigation of concussion and head impact exposure ever conducted,” West said, “and presents an unprecedented opportunity to advance the field of concussion science while educating our force and their families, increasing our chances of full recovery, and decreasing the number of future injuries through preventive measures.”
These initiatives, the general explained, align with priorities put forth by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, to develop evidence-based approaches to improving the medical care, health and welfare of military service members affected by concussion and traumatic brain injury.
Service Academies Supporting Study
With recent White House reports of young people comprising nearly 250,000 emergency room visits each year following brain injuries related to sports or recreation, all four service academies -- where every student is a student-athlete -- are now identifying how they can best support the study.
Culturally, self-reporting head injuries is seen by some as a sign of weakness, West said.
“We just get up, shake it off, and rub some dirt on it,” the general said. However, she added, “we are seeing a shift in our culture with increasing leader emphasis as well as encouraging the importance of the buddy system (assess and act, if necessary, for your buddy’s well-being).
“We hope to continue to change the culture by arming physicians and scientists with better clinical data,” West continued, “and by creating educational programs to increase understanding of the importance of diagnostics for immediate action and tracking for follow-up treatment.”
Pentagon officials also reported the study complements current service academy efforts to raise awareness on concussions, such as advanced traumatic brain injury instructional training for Coast Guard Academy athletic coaches to assist them in recognizing the signs of brain injury.
The research broadens the NCAA National Sport Concussion Outcomes Study, an existing multisite, longitudinal investigation of concussive and repetitive head impacts, and it acts as the foundation for future advanced research projects, DoD and NCAA officials explained.