Protecting the health of Hoosiers and beyond

Leading the charge against concussions

Each year, concussions cause over 2.8 million visits to the hospital or emergency room, with over 50,000 people dying annually from concussion-related injuries. These injuries are particularly common among young athletes and members of the military.

As the leader of the Concussion Assessment and Research Education (CARE) Consortium—the largest concussion study taking place at the collegiate level—Indiana University’s Thomas McAllister, the Albert Eugene Sterne Professor and chair of the IU School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, is at the forefront of concussion research.

Launched in 2014 through $30 million in joint funding from the NCAA and the Department of Defense, the CARE Consortium’s central mission is to gain a deeper understanding of concussion injuries and to develop educational programs that can help change the culture surrounding concussion reporting and management. These education programs are a critical component of the study, as concussions are historically underreported.

The consortium received a new $22.5 million grant from the NCAA and DOD in 2018 to study the intermediate and cumulative effects of concussion and repetitive head impact exposure.

“The work and research of the CARE Consortium will make a lasting impact on sports medicine and on how we approach, diagnose, treat, and prevent concussions,” said McAllister. “By leveraging multiple sites, sports, and athletes on a nationwide scale, we can collect convincing data to change the way the public views and understands brain injury.”

As of early 2019, more than 44,000 participants had been enrolled in the consortium’s research programs, with data captured on over 4,300 concussions. In a research area that has traditionally focused on male athletes—namely, football players—the CARE Consortium has diversified the scope of its analysis, with more than 6,300 women tested so far.

IU’s world-class research labs play a vital role across this entire study, from using imaging to visualize changes in the brain to establishing repositories for additional biological research and analysis.

With his intense focus on large data collection, McAllister’s leadership of the CARE Consortium is reshaping our approach to concussion research, helping to protect athletes and U.S. service members from dangerous brain trauma.