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Concussion Center study featured in The Detroit News, Michigan News

The U-M Concussion Center’s Michigan Alumni Brain Health Study was featured in two news articles on Thursday, February 2.

Michigan News wrote about the study in the article “Brain health, concussions and sports: Is there a long-term connection?

The Detroit News also covered the study in their article “UM to study concussions, brain health of alums.”*

The alumni study is co-led by Dr. James Eckner, associate professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and associate director of research for the Concussion Center, and Dr. Philip Veliz, assistant research professor at the U-M School of Nursing. Both Eckner and Veliz spoke with Michigan News and The Detroit News.

Also quoted in the stories was Jarrett Irons, former All-Big Ten linebacker and U-M Football co-captain in the mid-1990s, who now serves on the Concussion Center’s Advisory Board.

*Note: You will need a subscription to read The Detroit News article.

Our faculty members spoke, and we listened. 

During the U-M Concussion Center’s series of faculty workshops, research coordination support was identified as a key strategic enabler needed to advance concussion research at the University of Michigan, especially for new pilot projects and discrete research tasks. To meet our ongoing faculty members’ needs, the center welcomed two new staff members, Michaela Broadnax and Matthew Morley, who will provide research support tailored to research teams’ needs. 

Michaela Broadnax
Michaela Broadnax

Broadnax serves as the center’s research area specialist and Dr. Eleanna Varangis’ (assistant professor of Movement Science, School of Kinesiology) research laboratory manager. Broadnax previously worked as a lead research coordinator at Case Western University School of Medicine and outreach coordinator for the Cleveland Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (CADRC). According to Broadnax, she analyzed qualitative data, trained research staff members, collected quantitative data, nurtured institutional and community partner relationships, and gathered preliminary data on recruitment needs for underrepresented populations on three National Institute of Health funded grants during her tenure at Case Western and CADRC. 

During her time at the CADRC, she learned that people who suffer a concussion or a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) later in life. “Often, people focus on the short-term risks (of concussion): ‘When can I play again?’ When can I go back to work?’ or ‘When can I drive again?’ versus treating it while keeping the long-term effects in mind,” said Broadnax. 

She can now marry her research interest in brain injury and neurocognitive decline by examining concussion effects on neurocognitive function in adulthood and continue studying ways to treat brain injury for the prevention of cognitive decline.

Broadnax added the center’s multi-disciplinary approach, in addition to Dr. Varangis’s goal of examining the long-term effects of concussion, was the perfect fit for her. 

“My experiences as both a clinical research and outreach coordinator have prepared me to take on any challenge,” she explained. “I haven’t worked with just one research field, so this experience has prepared me to work with any given population and to have empathy while doing so. I also have experience collaborating across various institutions and working with diverse populations, which are critical to support the center’s research mission”

Matthew Morley brings a background in the social sciences, particularly an emphasis on research data management, collection, and education to his role as the center’s clinical research coordinator.

He spent the last ten years working at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR). His first six years at ISR were with the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), one of the world’s leading data archives.

Matthew Morley smiling
Matthew Morley

Morley said throughout his time at ICPSR, he worked on data management, curation, and documentation and developed data pipelines for federally funded projects. 

From there, he transitioned to being a project manager for ISR’s Research Center for Group Dynamics, specifically the Aggression Research Group. Morley oversaw projects related to youth exposure to violence in urban cities like Flint, Michigan, and Jersey City, New Jersey. In addition to collecting and managing data, Morley helped with survey design, oversaw teams out in the field, and worked with project partners (U-M students and researchers, study participants, and community organizations). 

According to Morley, data helps run the world. 

“It’s even more critical in the health sciences because you can see how things develop. Whether it’s a pandemic or concussions, there is something wrong about what is taking place in people’s health, and that needs to be understood,” he said. “So, I’ve tried to throw myself into whatever I can to understand this world better.”   

The center’s multifaceted commitment to research, clinical care, and public engagement drew him to the position. 

“With my background in different aspects of research and the multifaceted nature of the center’s projects, I feel like I’m in an excellent position to help further the growth of these studies and facilitate the research and public engagement,” Morley said. “With my background in education, I can help with data management and collection and be a facilitator from the researcher to subject participants, community organizations, and health systems.”

He also has a personal connection to concussions. He played collegiate rugby at the University of Southern California in addition to being a lifelong football fan. While he was never diagnosed with a concussion, he had many teammates who were.

“There is a lot of ambition here (at the center). Everybody is great, super nice, and it just feels like you’re a part of something really important that is just getting off the ground,” Morley added.  

“We are very excited about having Matthew and Michaela on board to strengthen our research core,” said JT Eckner, associate director of research for the center. “In addition to providing research support for our faculty members, they will be instrumental in building our Concussion Learning Health System (C-LHS), which will generate and translate concussion knowledge to improve patient care at the University of Michigan.”

Call for Proposals »

Faculty can fill out applications for Discrete Task Support or Ongoing Projects on a rolling, ongoing basis. The current call for proposals will remain open through January 31, 2023, with project support availability as early as March 1, 2023.

To help foster a sense of community among University of Michigan Concussion Center members, the center hosted a Concussion & Cocktails research presentation in October featuring Hayley Falk, a PhD student in the Department of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, and Dr. Fred Korley, associate professor of Emergency Medicine. 

Falk shared research from her publication “A Prognostic Model for Predicting 1-Month Outcomes among Emergency Department Patients with GCS 15 TBI.” She developed a prognostic model to help predict emergency department (ED) patients presenting with a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of 15 (after sustaining a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI)) who would have incomplete recovery one-month post-concussion.

Group photo of center members

According to Falk, there is not a well-defined model that can be used to predict outcomes for patients who come into the ED with an mTBI. Not having this type of model can become a barrier to improving patient clinical care because physicians in the ED are not able to quickly identify patients who would benefit from additional follow-up treatment and care. 

She noted while the prognostic model still needs external validation, the study showed it has the ability to help identify those at risk of incomplete recovery and inform clinical care decisions in the ED setting. 

Members in attendance asked questions throughout the presentation about the variables used in the model and how the Glasgow Outcome Scale Extended (GOSE) was defined. Following the presentation, discussions led by Dr. Korley, Falk, and various audience members centered around further concussion-specific applications for the model and how it could be used in different population settings. 

The goal of Concussion & Cocktails presentations is to bring center members together in a casual forum to highlight member research and continue developing cross-campus relationships. The next Concussion & Cocktails event will take place in spring 2023. More information will be shared in upcoming Concussion Corners.

Every year, the Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI) hosts a “Fall Conference.” One of the largest of its kind, the two-day conference draws brain injury survivors, clinicians, and advocates across the country together. This September, U-M Concussion Center faculty members hosted two informative sessions, starting with Dr. Steve Broglio’s presentation on the future of concussion through the efforts spearheaded by the Concussion Assessment, Research and Education (CARE) Consortium, the largest concussion and repetitive head impact study in history. 

BIAMI Fall Conference logo

In the United States, the long-term neurological impacts of concussions started to gain significant public attention in the early 2000s. Based on a shared concern and interest in understanding concussion, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) established the CARE Consortium in 2014 to “inform science, clinical care and public policy related to concussion and repetitive head impact exposure in the U.S. Military Service Academy (MSA) cadets and collegiate student athletes”.

Dr. Broglio’s presentation introduced the three main goals of the CARE Consortium: 1) create a national multi-site for concussion research; 2) conduct a prospective, longitudinal, multi-site, multi-sport study of the natural history of concussion across all 26 men’s and women’s sports; and 3) conduct studies that integrate biological factors to advance our understanding of this brain injury. Since 2014, the investigators have published over 100 papers to support the mission. To date, over 137 million data points are now published and publicly accessible through the Federal Interagency Traumatic Brain Injury Research (FITBIR) database.

Currently, Dr. Broglio and his team at the University of Michigan are leading the next study phase, known as the CARE/ Service Academy Longitudinal mTBI Outcomes Study (SALTOS) Integrated (CSI) Study, investigating the long-term impacts of head impact exposure and concussion in NCAA collegiate athletes and military cadets. “No concussions are the same,” said Dr. Broglio, “and our goal is to do the best  science possible to protect our service members and the general public based on lessons learned through the CARE consortium.” 

Other center members joined Dr. Broglio for a second break-out session, where evidence-based strategies and best practices were shared with conference participants through a live Q&A panel.

Given the complexity of concussion, and differential post-injury impact across patient populations (e.g., anxiety and depression in student-athletes after concussion), the panel included members from diverse clinical areas, including Dr. David Millward (U-M Athletics Medical Director), Dr. Srijan Sen (Director of U-M’s Eisenberg Family Depression Center), Dr. JT Eckner (Associate Professor, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation), and Dr. Katharine Seagly (Assistant Professor, Physician Medicine & Rehabilitation). 

Center members kicked off the panel by sharing their insights on the mechanisms of injury, common signs and symptoms, and various social and psychological factors impacting the injury profile. The audience received evidence-based recommendations in concussion symptom management and strategies to facilitate a return to normal activities, such as classroom learning, playing sports, and driving. As an institution with a rich athletics tradition, conference participants had the opportunity to learn about the unique challenges faced by U-M student-athletes and the support received from athletic medicine providers and coaching staff. Through this one-hour moderated panel discussion, practical tips and resources were disseminated, including the free concussion training certificate produced by the center, helping coaches and other adults affiliated with youth sports meet the State of Michigan’s requirements.

“We are so grateful for your willingness to share your time, energy, knowledge, and talent to help improve the lives of the people we serve,” said Nichole Shotwell, Vice President of BIAMI, “the session was very well received, and I am proud to be a Michigan Wolverine!”

1 CARE Consortium: History & Mission.