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Milwaukee brain injury researcher's findings create change in football

Posted at 8:24 PM, Nov 01, 2017

Concussion research is taking a step forward thanks to groundbreaking findings out of Milwaukee.

The Medical College of Wisconsin says their research into acute, or short term, effects of football related head injuries is leading to change at all levels of the game.

Their research is based off eight local colleges and high schools in the Milwaukee area. You wouldn't notice it by attending a Concordia University football practice, but each hit the players take is tested right on the spot for concussions. Every practice and every game Concordia football players hit the field; their brains are being analyzed for dangerous blows to the head.

"We have a computer system on the sideline that records all of the impacts that are sustained in every helmet," said Dr. Michael McCrea.

McCrea is a brain injury researcher with the Medical College of Wisconsin. He said the technology is in the helmets.

"These sensors have accelerometers in them that allow us to measure the location of any impact and the severity of any impact an athlete sustains," said McCrea.

There are 300 special helmet sensors spread out between local participating schools as part of a national concussion study calls "Head to Head." McCrea said he's analyzed hundreds of concussions voluntary participants have endured.

"It's focused on the acute effects meaning what happens to the brain within minutes to hours of injury," said McCrea.

McCrea's first major finding is that concussion effects often linger in the brain several days after athletes feel symptom-free. Their studies are now enforced in "return to play" protocol at high school and college football programs on an international level.

"’Return to play’ has literally gone from 15 minutes to 15 days and with that improvement and informed approach to injury management we see a great reduction in same season repeat concussions," said McCrea.

Rather than have concussed players sit idle, McCrea said their research shows it's best to have them get back to light physical activity after just a day or two.

"Within the last 6-12 months, the NCAA came out with some more recommendations that I believe are a direct result of this study," said Concordia Dir. of Sports Medicine Angi Steffen.

Another major discover from the brain sensors inside the Concordia football players' helmets is that concussions don't just come from major hits. McCrea said often times it’s an accumulation of minor to moderate impacts over a week’s time.