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March 10, 2016

Temple, Penn chosen for huge concussion study

$30 million study will involve 25,000 student-athletes

Temple and the University of Pennsylvania have been selected to be part of a $30 million, 25,000-participant study on sports concussions.

Touted as a "grand alliance" between the NCAA and the Department of Defense, the study is billed as the largest research initiative ever conducted on sports-related head trauma. It began in 2014 with 21 institutions, then added nine more schools, including Temple and Penn. 

More than 170 schools expressed interest in being part of this round of the study, so the two Philly schools will enjoy some bragging rights over getting to take part.

"It is our hope that the data being collected at the 30 study locations will provide new insight into concussion and the best ways for us to keep our student-athletes safe," said Ryan Tierney, a professor of kinesiology and one of the principal investigators of the study at Temple.

The goal is to investigate the long-term effects of repeated head impacts on men and women in every sport, not just football. Researchers want to create a "natural history" of the ailment — a complete description of how the condition progresses from initial trauma to full recovery, if there is one.

This natural history is "poorly defined," according to the consortium running the study. One enormous challenge is that scientists still don't have an objective physical marker of recovery.

"There is still so much that is not known about concussion and the short- and long-term effects of head impacts common across a wide variety of sports," said neuroscience professor T. Dianne Langford, the other principal investigator at Temple.

The study represents a partnership between athletic and medical departments in both schools. Temple will draw on resources from its athletics department, medical school and College of Public Health, while Penn Athletics, Penn Student Health Services, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia will form their own collaborative team.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia joined the study in 2014. It joined the study in 2016.

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