There is no bigger issue in all of American football than the issue of head trauma.
Concussions, and the long-range health effects caused by those concussions, have taken center stage in the football world thanks in large part to the high-profile deaths and illnesses of several former players. Among them is longtime star NFL linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide in the spring of 2012; though it has not yet been concluded whether head trauma played a role in Seau's death, rising evidence of the link between concussions and depression and other neurological illness has driven the National Football League to look more closely at the issue.
Now, it seems, leaders in the college game will do the same.
In late June of 2012, the Big Ten Conference and the Ivy League announced a new collaboration under which the leagues and their member schools will "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."
The leagues said that the initiative "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 collaboration was announced in a joint release by the conferences on June 19. Reaction to the collaboration announcement included the following:
University of Iowa President and Big Ten presidents char Sally Mason: "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. 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."
Shirley Tilghman, president of Princeton University and Ivy League presidents' chair: "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."
Barbara McFadden Allen, Executive Director for the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC): "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 . "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."
Dr. Jim Yong Kim, co-chair of the Ivy League Multi-Sport Concussion Committee and Dartmouth College President: "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. 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."
Dr. David Skorton, co-chair of the Ivy League Multi-Sport Concussion Committee and Cornell University President: "Bringing our institutions together in this transformative initiative simply made sense. 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."
Dr. Dennis Molfese, Big Ten/CIC Research Collaboration Director and the University of Nebraska Director of the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior: "The opportunity for collaborating on such a landmark series of studies with the Ivy League is unprecedented in sports medicine. 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."