Big Ten/CIC and the Ivy League Announce Research Collaboration to Study Head Injuries in Sports

Big Ten/CIC and the Ivy League Announce Research Collaboration to Study Head Injuries in Sports

Big Ten/CIC and the Ivy League Announce Research Collaboration to Study Head Injuries in Sports

Jun 19, 2012, 10:00 AM

World-class academic and research institutions agree to coordinate ongoing efforts to address head injuries in athletics, including concussions The Big Ten Conference and the Ivy League, in conjunction with the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), have announced plans to engage...

photo of MRI brain scan

World-class academic and research institutions agree to coordinate ongoing efforts to address head injuries in athletics, including concussions

The Big Ten Conference and the Ivy League, in conjunction with the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), have announced plans to engage in a co-sponsored, cross-institutional research collaboration to study the effects of head injuries in sports, continuing efforts dating back more than two years.

This historic collaboration brings together two prestigious academic and athletic entities, and allows for the coordination of ongoing efforts by each conference to research and address various aspects of head injuries in athletics, including concussions. The world-class academic and research capabilities of the institutions will help to promote a collaborative and collegial atmosphere to address a burgeoning issue impacting the welfare of athletes at all levels of sport.

“CIC member universities have collaborated for more than 50 years, but this is the deepest and most significant research and academic collaboration we've launched,” said Barbara McFadden Allen, CIC Executive Director. “It draws perfectly on the intersection of great medicine, great athletics and great academics that characterizes what is best in our universities. By working together across traditional boundaries, we can build the infrastructure to address the problem, assemble a much larger potential pool of athletes and draw upon the formidable research and medical fields and talents represented across the universities.”

“We are excited by the possibilities of this collaboration between Big Ten Conference and Ivy League institutions to continue our close examination of the effects of head injuries in athletics,” said Dr. Sally Mason, Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors chair and University of Iowa President. “It will provide an incredible boost to our ongoing efforts while reinforcing the priorities of institutional research and reciprocity between some of the nation’s top academic organizations.”

“The Ivy League is committed to fostering a safe and healthy environment for our student-athletes. We look forward to working with the Big Ten to continue to study the effects of concussions and head injuries in sport,” said Shirley Tilghman, Ivy League Council of Presidents chair and Princeton University President. “By pooling our expertise and resources, our institutions aim to significantly expand upon the research needed to improve long - term, concussion-prevention measures.”

“This is an exciting initiative and we expect the results of our efforts to advance our collective understanding of the effects of concussions and head injuries, and to extend beyond our two conferences,” said Dr. Jim Yong Kim, co-chair of the Ivy League Multi-Sport Concussion Committee and Dartmouth College President. “Combining our common interest and work to-date in researching and addressing concussion in sports will enhance the welfare and well-being of student-athletes across the various fields of competition, collegiately and hopefully at other levels of play.”

In May 2010, the Big Ten became the first collegiate conference to establish a conference-wide concussion management plan while in 2011 the Ivy League developed and enacted a series of concussion-curbing measures in the sport of football after a year-long review. Since September 2011, the two conferences have engaged in discussions to examine the feasibility and benefits of collaboration, while outlining the framework and objectives associated with the initiative. Through academic research and shared resources, the collaboration will promote positive and constructive change for injury assessment and improved long-term outcomes. In addition to establishing a core leadership group to help lead the initiative, each conference will identify researchers and related participants from each school, as well as a few selected external subject-matter experts. The intent of this effort is to develop a research network of sports medicine personnel, neurologists, neuropsychologists, neurosurgeons, biologists, epidemiologists and other experts to set up and implement research protocols across the group.

“Bringing our institutions together in this transformative initiative simply made sense,” said Dr. David Skorton, co- chair of the Ivy League Multi-Sport Concussion Committee and Cornell University President. “President Kim and I believe this collaboration will lead to new forms of preventive and therapeutic action to counter the immediate and long-term harm of concussions and enhance the well-being of our student-athletes.”

“The opportunity for collaborating on such a landmark series of studies with the Ivy League is unprecedented in sports medicine,” said Dr. Dennis Molfese, Big Ten/CIC Research Collaboration Director and the University of Nebraska Director of the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior. “Frankly, this is a unique moment in the history of science. There is no question that this research program will be greatly strengthened by bringing together in a genuine partnership the outstanding and cutting-edge scientists, athletic trainers and team physicians of both conferences to better understand and reduce as well as treat head injuries.”

Formal collaboration between the Big Ten and the Ivy League will extend and enhance the work already undertaken by both conferences over the past two years in their prior and ongoing efforts to address issues related to head injuries in intercollegiate athletics, including:

  • Developed a “Concussion Management Plan” for use by conference institutions, including baselines for return to academic and athletic activities (Big Ten, 2010);
  • Conducted presidential discussions concerning the existing data and research regarding concussions in athletics and identified steps to enhance student-athlete safety (Ivy League, 2010);
  • Developed a “Concussion Return to Play Checklist” and obtained agreement from athletic medicine staffs to use the checklist as a guide for their respective schools (Ivy League, 2011);
  • Convened an ad hoc committee to review concussions in football and developed a series of recommendations, which were implemented in the fall of 2011, with the goal of lowering the incidence of concussion and subconcussive hits in football (Ivy League, 2011);
  • Conducted a Head Injury Summit, with 40-plus attendees across several disciplines, including athletic medicine, neurology, neuropsychology, physics, engineering and biological sciences (Big Ten/CIC, 2011);
  • Created a centralized data-sharing platform to enhance existing surveillance and research and accelerate new inquiries into concussions (Big Ten/CIC, 2011);
  • Convened additional ad hoc committees to review concussions in men’s and women’s ice hockey, soccer and lacrosse and will make recommendations for those sports (Ivy League, 2012); and
  • Launched a research initiative regarding how head injuries affect athletes in all sports (Big Ten/CIC, 2012). 

About the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC)

The CIC is the nation's premier higher education consortium of top-tier research institutions, including the Big Ten Conference members and the University of Chicago. Through collaboration, CIC members save money, share assets, and increase teaching, learning and research opportunities. Combined, CIC universities engage in more than $7 billion in funded research each year. With over 430,000 students attending, CIC institutions collectively employ more than 150,000 full-time employees, of which almost 46,000 are faculty. Please visit the Traumatic Brain Injury Collaborative web page for more information.

About the Big Ten Conference

The Big Ten Conference is an association of world-class universities whose member institutions share a common mission of research, graduate, professional and undergraduate teaching and public service. Founded in 1896, the Big Ten has sustained a comprehensive set of shared practices and policies that enforce the priority of academics in student-athletes’ lives and emphasize the values of integrity, fairness and competitiveness. The broad -based athletic programs of the 12 Big Ten institutions sponsor 298 teams competing for championships in 25 official conference sports, 12 for men and 13 for women. Big Ten universities provide in excess of $136 million in athletic scholarship aid to nearly 10,000 men and women student-athletes, the most of any conference. For more information, visit

About the Ivy League

Founded in 1954, the Ivy League is the most diverse intercollegiate conference in the country with over 8,000 athletes competing each year. Sponsoring conference championships in 33 men's and women's sports, and averaging more than 35 varsity teams at each school, the Ivy League provides more intercollegiate athletic opportunities per school than any other conference in the country. All eight Ivy schools are among the top 20 of NCAA Division I schools in number of sports offered for both men and women. The Ivy League annually finishes among the top conferences in the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics competitive rankings and enjoys regular competitive success at the highest championship levels of NCAA Division I athletics, including team and individual national championships in men’s and women’s fencing, men’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s lacrosse, women’s rowing, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s track and field and wrestling. Ivy League student-athletes annually compile the country’s best records in the NCAA Academic Performance Ratings under the Ivy League model of athletics as a key part of the student's regular undergraduate experience. For more information, visit