UB gets major grant for teen concussion research

Posted at 11:03 AM, Mar 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-16 11:28:14-04

A research team at the University at Buffalo will be taking a deeper dive into the impact concussions have on the body and brain.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year, $2 million grant to researchers at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The school says concussions have received plenty of attention from the media, but exactly how they affect patients is not well understood.

Researchers say the study will focus on teenage athletes. Teenagers are four times more likely to suffer concussions than adults. Fifteen percent of teenagers with concussions have symptoms that last six to eight months.
"That's a big number," said Dr. Barry Willer, a professor with the University at Buffalo. "Can we do something about that, I sure hope we can."
At UB's Concussion Management Clinic, researchers are already studying teenage athletes who sustain sports related concussions to see how low impact exercise may help with recovery.
Research so far has shown that intolerance to exercise is a symptom of concussion. However, experts believe exercise could still help patients.
"We know where their threshold is, and we know how to there below it," Willer explained. "And then within a week of exercise, their threshold goes up, and therefore their exercise level goes up."
The grant will go towards advanced imaging and working with patients. UB researchers believe they can prove an increase in blood flow to the brain during exercise when someone sustains a concussion. 
Willer said the team at the Concussion Management Clinic also wants to use low impact exercise to help diagnose the severity of head trauma.
One patient's intolerance to any form of exercise helped doctors predict a long recovery with one patient. Doctors were even able to work with his school so that he did not fall further behind.
About 90 teenagers who play a sport are being recruited for the study. Parents that are interested should contact the UB Concussion Management Clinic at 716-829-5499.