UB to use NIH grant for research on concussions and teen athletes

Mar 15, 2016

The University at Buffalo is receiving a grant that officials say will help them move forward with a study on concussions and their effects on teen athletes.

The National Institutes of Health is providing the five-year, $2 million grant to UB's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. UB researchers are using the grant for a study that will focus on teen athletes in order to learn more about how concussions affect cerebral blood flow.

Sean Kaiser (at podium) speaks during a news conference about UB's forthcoming study on concussions and teen athletes. Standing behind him, left to right, are Dr. John Leddy and Dr. Barry Willer of the UB Concussion Management Clinic.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The study will focus on what researchers believe is a marker for identifying concussion: an inability to exercise above a certain intensity, or exercise intolerance.

"What we ultimately hope is that this work will help clinicians in the area better help their concussed patients, identifying a concussion, treating a concussion and knowing when a concussion is resolved," said Dr. John Leddy, professor of sports medicine and director of the UB Concussion Management Clinic. "This is really useful for the teenage athlete because they're the group that we find is the most susceptible to concussion and takes longest to recover."

Researchers are seeking 90 teens to participate in the study. Officials say parents interested in enrolling their kids for the study may call the UB Concussion Management Clinic at 716-829-5499.

UB researchers have already worked extensively on concussion research and have pioneered the use of low-level exercise to help concussed patients recover. It breaks from the long-used standard of requiring long periods of rest. 

"The standard of care for concussion has been that the patient should have a prolonged period of rest," said Dr. Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development at UB. "But it's never been proven to be beneficial and there's some evidence that it may even be harmful."

What UB experts suggest is that prolonged rest alone gives the patient more time to focus on the illness, and create anxiety and depression.

Among the young athletes already served and treated by UB doctors is Sean Kaiser, a senior at Frontier High School and a teen athlete who sustained a concussion in August 2014 during a preseason football practice.

"I had to do a bunch of different treadmill tests and work with the certain test they  made me do," Kaiser explained. "They realized I was taking longer to recover than most people. That's when they had to figure out a plan for the school."

Kaiser estimated it took him about five months to recover. His teachers and other school staff accommodated him during his recovery and helped him complete his junior year successfully. Kaiser will graduate this June and enroll at Cleveland State University in the fall, where he will major in sports management.