UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program is Accelerating Understanding of Youth Concussions


New York Giants Chairman and Executive Vice President Steve Tisch has given millions to UCLA's BrainSPORT Program to help fund a pioneering research, treatment and outreach program for children and adolescents with traumatic brain injuries.

Discovering the Differences Between Adults and Children

Dr. Christopher Giza has been taking care of children with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) since 1994.

"We realized early on that the developing brain responded differently to trauma than the adult brain," he says, "and yet most of the management and treatment for kids with traumatic brain injury and concussions was simply borrowed from adults."

So in 2012 Dr. Giza launched the UCLA BrainSPORT program to research and treat people with sports-related traumatic brain injuries, particularly children and adolescents.

Two years later, the program received philanthropic support from Steve Tisch, Chairman and Executive Vice President of the New York Giants and was renamed the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT program.

President Barack Obama announced the $10 million gift at the Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit at the White House in May 2014.

Tisch's investment made BrainSPORT the nation's largest public-private collaborative sports concussion program.

Concussion Education Outreach

Beyond clinical care for those with sports-related neurological injuries, BrainSPORT also goes to great lengths to educate athletes, their coaches and their parents about concussions and sports safety.

"Our lectures and research presentations have been viewed by over 10,000 other health care providers and researchers globally," Dr. Giza says.

A recent BrainSPORT survey of almost 600 parents across the U.S. shows why this kind of outreach is key.

Dr. Giza says he and his colleagues found that "the vast majority believed in outdated advice regarding recovery of children diagnosed with concussions." By extending outreach, not just to medical providers, but also to athletes, coaches, parents, educators and the general public, we can ensure that all stakeholders have an accurate and up-to-date awareness of best practices for concussion management.

A Research Pioneer

UCLA's Steve Tisch BrainSPORT program created the first U.S. fellowship program to train pediatric neurologists who specialize in youth sports concussions.

And it was the first to publish a study describing the utility of a pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) clinic. That study appeared earlier this year in a special issue of the Journal of Child Neurology dedicated to pediatric TBI.

BrainSPORT's work also includes research on the effects of impact intervals on concussion recovery and conducting lab and clinic investigations into the effects of fear and anxiety in prolonging concussion recovery.

"One of our biggest accomplishments so far," says Dr. Giza, "was being selected as one of only four original Advanced Research Core sites in the nation for the NCAA-DOD Concussion Assessment Research and Education (CARE) Consortium."

It's the largest prospective study of sports concussions ever conducted. Initial findings are to be published next year.

Forging Ahead With Important Research

"There are millions of children and adolescents who play sports from football to soccer to combat sports to cheerleading," says Dr. Giza. "And while tons of research and significant amounts of funding are being spent at the highest levels of sport, there is disproportionately very little organized, multi-center research going on at the youth levels. Just because kids are smaller doesn't mean they are any less deserving of our full attention, research and resources to make sports safer."

"It's critical," he says, "to consider the millions of youth participants at risk and embrace the significant challenges of working in this space."