Riddell, a leader in football helmet technology and innovation, and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a leader in cutting-edge genomic research, have announced that the Pac-12’s Arizona State University and its Sun Devil football program will again participate in a genetic research study designed to advance athlete concussion detection and treatment.
Now in its second year, the joint research project will combine molecular information and head impact data from Sun Devil football student-athletes to identify whether the effects of sub-concussive hits are identifiable. The researchers will monitor the players’ changing molecular information throughout a season of typical head impact exposure associated with football practice and games. Representatives from the Sun Devil medical team and TGen will collect the molecular samples from the participating athletes, all of whom volunteered to partake in the study.
“This partnership represents another dynamic and innovative step toward ensuring that the health and well-being of our student-athletes remains our most important goal,” Vice President for Arizona State University Athletics Ray Anderson said. “Sun Devil Athletics continues to serve as a pioneering force in this important issue and is proud to participate in this world-class research study for the second consecutive year with two outstanding industry trendsetters in Riddell and TGen.”
Arizona State’s preferred helmet and protective equipment provider, Riddell, has again deployed its Sideline Response System (SRS) to obtain real-time head impact data from Arizona State football student-athletes. Riddell SRS provides researchers with a wide range of valuable information on the frequency and severity of head impacts a player receives during games and practices. Data gathered from the system will be combined with genetic information from players that experience concussion, with the objective of helping physicians diagnose concussion and better identify when a player might be expected to recover and return to the field.
“Player protection has become an essential part of football, and this cutting-edge partnership sets ASU apart from not only the rest of the conference, but every collegiate football program in the nation,” ASU Head Coach Todd Graham said. “We are not only looking out for our student-athletes while they are enrolled at ASU, but for the rest of their lives. You become a part of the brotherhood once you put on the maroon and gold, and that doesn’t end at graduation.”
Riddell will also utilize the player head impact data collected from the ASU and TGen research partnership to inform the development of new football helmets and further refine updates to smart helmet technologies like Riddell SRS and its recently launched Riddell InSite Impact Response System.
“We’re impressed by the enthusiasm exhibited by our partners, Arizona State University and TGen, as we enter the second season of our important research collaboration,” President of Riddell Dan Arment said. “They have matched our level of passion for football, and we are all committed to better protecting those that play the sport we love. We are left encouraged following the first year of our project and look forward to continuing on the path towards advancing concussion detection and treatment of athletes.”
The researchers at TGen are exploring whether the effects of sub-concussive hits are identifiable through blood-based molecular information. Their findings could prove pivotal to the game of football and other sports. Similar to last season, during this phase of the study the TGen faculty and staff are on the sidelines collecting samples and data. A baseline sample was collected from all participating players prior to their pre-season workouts. Since then, the researchers have followed the team through their daily workouts and will continue throughout the season.
Through the collection of samples over various points in time and the data generated by Riddell SRS, the goal is to identify the genomic changes in athletes exposed to routine head impacts during practice and games, athletes with diagnosed concussions that recover on both a routine time scale, and athletes with persistent symptoms following concussion that require additional treatment.
“As the mother of a young son who has played football, I’m keenly aware of the need to improve the current standards in place today for dealing with this issue,” said TGen Associate Professor Dr. Kendall Van Keuren-Jensen, whose technique for studying the collected samples drives this unique partnership. “As a researcher whose daily work looks for ways to determine the early warning signs of head injury, I get to see first hand how committed Arizona State University and Riddell are to student-athlete safety, and their determination to improve the game at all levels.”
Following the season long campaign, the researchers will gather post-season data and begin the analysis process with their colleagues at Barrow Neurological Institute and A.T. Still University. During this process, TGen will work closely with Barrow, whose B.R.A.I.N.S. (Barrow Resource for Acquired Injury to the Nervous System) program treats patients who have sustained a traumatic brain or spinal cord injury. The Barrow data will provide the researchers with additional concussion data and allow for comparison between data sets.