The Concussion Research Program is currently conducting research in the following priority areas.
Understanding the Effects of Multiple Concussions.
We will rapidly pursue the largest research program to date on the effects of multiple concussions in adolescent student athletes. In collaboration with Colby College and the Maine Concussion Management Initiative, we will systematically address risks for future concussions and attention-deficit disorders, learning disabilities and/or the influence of concussions on current cognitive difficulties or symptoms.
Improving the Methodology for Assessing Cognitive Impairment Following Concussion.
We will conduct a series of studies that will examine the reliability, accuracy, and clinical usefulness of computerized cognitive testing as a component of a sport concussion management program. We will collaborate with our colleagues from Vancouver (Canada), Calgary, Philadelphia, Helsinki, Tampere (Finland), Waterville (ME), and Newcastle (Australia) on this research program.
Developing a Cognition Endpoint for TBI Clinical Trials.
There is no well-defined, widely accepted, and validated cognition endpoint for TBI clinical trials. A single cognition endpoint that has excellent measurement precision across a wide functional range and is sensitive to the detection of small improvements (and declines) in cognitive functioning would enhance the power and precision of TBI clinical trials and accelerate drug development research. We are engaged in a multi-year programmatic research effort to develop and validate a cognition endpoint for TBI research and clinical trials (see PubMed).
Improving Exertional Testing and Return to Play Protocols.
Injured athletes are expected to undergo a progressive series of exercises and exertional tests, spanning several days, prior to be cleared to return to contact sports. It is important to understand and document the effects of exertional testing on athletes who are not injured so we have normative reference values to compare to athletes who are injured. We will examine the effects of exertional testing on cardiac physiology, balance, cognition, and subjective symptoms in both uninjured and injured athletes. We will pursue this research with our collaborators from Canada.
Active Rehabilitation for Children and Adolescents Who are Slow to Recover from Concussion.
There are no evidence-based guidelines for providing treatment and rehabilitation services to student athletes who are slow to recover from concussion. Through a series of studies with our Canadian collaborators, we will advance knowledge and refine treatment strategies for children and adolescents who have persistent symptoms and problems following their injuries.
Are Former Athletes at Risk for Future Brain Disease and Neurodegeneration?
There have been thousands of media reports relating to former athletes being at increased risk for future brain disease and neurodegeneration. The most commonly used term for this disease is “chronic traumatic encephalopathy,” but it has also been claimed that other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (“Lou Gehrig’s disease”), could be linked to repetitive concussions. The scientific evidence, however, linking athletics and repetitive injury to brain disease is limited. We will pursue national and international research on this topic.
Dr. Grant Iverson is a Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. He is the Director of the Concussion Research Program for the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network. He is the Director of the Mass General for Children Sports Concussion Program. In this program, he is developing, implementing, and evaluating new neuropsychology and rehabilitation services for student athletes. He also serves as the Associate Director of the Traumatic Brain Injury Program at Home Base, A Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Program, where he is developing, implementing, and evaluating cognitive health, neuropsychology, and rehabilitation services for post-911 military service members and veterans. Dr. Iverson is a leading proponent of a biopsychosocial model for conceptualizing both good and poor outcome from mild traumatic brain injury in athletes, civilians, active duty military service members, and veterans. His team has published more than 420 articles, reviews, and book chapters.
Dr. Iverson served as the Chair for the Canadian Psychological Association Section on Clinical Neuropsychology from 2003-2010. He was a Member of the Board of Governors of the International Neuropsychological Society from 2008-2011. He was a member of the Board of Governors of the International Brain Injury Association (2012-2017). He served as a consensus panel member for the 3rd and 4th International Conferences on Concussion in Sport in Zurich, Switzerland in 2008 and 2012, and the 5th International Conference in Berlin in 2016. He served as an Advisor to the Neurocognitive Disorders Workgroup (Traumatic Brain Injury) for the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V). He also served as a founding member of the Traumatic Brain Injury Subcommittee of the Defense Health Board, a chartered civilian advisory board to the United States Secretary of Defense. He served as the President of the National Academy of Neuropsychology in 2015, and he served as a member of the Board of Governors from 2014-2018.
Dr. Iverson joined the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School in January of 2013 after spending 18 years in the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, at the University of British Columbia. He received his bachelor’s degree from University of Northern Iowa, and master’s and PhD from West Virginia University. He completed his pre-doctoral internship at University of Missouri-Columbia and his post-doctoral fellowship at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Some of his team’s latest research can be viewed on PubMed: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Iverson+GL