Ivy League and Big 10 Launch To Jointly Research Head Injuries in Athletics

In the wake of increased awareness of the dangers of head trauma in sports, the Ivy League and Big Ten Conferences will partner in research on concussions and other head injuries in collegiate athletics. The co-sponsored project will pool over two years of research by each conference with the hopes of better understanding the effects of possible injuries and exploring preventative measures.

Robin Harris, Executive Director of the Ivy League, said that the partnership is a “wonderful opportunity to combine the expertise and research prowess of 20 of the best universities in the country.”

This collaboration has come after roughly two years of major research from each individual conference.

“Both the Big Ten and the Ivy League have been at the forefront of looking at this issue both athletically and from a research perspective,” said Kerry Kenny, Assistant Director of Compliance for The Big Ten.

In the past several seasons, the two Division I conferences have been among the first to make changes designed to protect its student-athletes from head injury. In 2010, the Big Ten created a conference-wide concussion management plan, the first of its kind among collegiate conferences. The following season, after a year-long review process, the Ivy League created and implemented new practice regulations for football, though Harvard players at the time said that the rules were no different than Harvard’s self-imposed restrictions.

Discussions about the possibility of collaboration between the two athletic conferences began in September, 2011.

Dan Colleran, an Assistant Executive Director for the Ivy League, said that the project involves many individuals working together across two conferences, and the scope of the investigation could lead to logistical difficulties.

“It is hard to work together just across one institution, so working across twenty is certainly more complicated, but the payoff is just tremendous,” added Barbara S. McFadden Allen, Executive Director of the Big Ten Committee on Institutional Cooperation.

Sally Mason, Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors Chair and the President of University of Iowa, told the press that the collaboration will reinforce “the priorities of institutional research and research and reciprocity between some the nation’s top academic organizations.”

“The Ivy League is committed to fostering a safe and healthy environment for our student-athletes,” Shirley M. Tilghman, Ivy League Council of Presidents and President of Princeton University, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Big Ten to continue to study the effects of concussions and head injuries in sport."

—Staff writer Alyza J. Sebenius can be reached at asebenius@college.harvard.edu.

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