Nebraskans should be proud of their flagship university's leadership in the study of brain function and injury.
A partnership among Big Ten and Ivy League schools to collaborate on the suddenly hot issue in athletics has the University of Nebraska-Lincoln at its core.
Dennis Molfese, the University of Nebraska's director of the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, already is working with the athletic department and soon will be moving inside Memorial Stadium, setting up a laboratory in East Stadium when the expansion construction ends next summer.
More attention than ever is being paid to the short- and long-term effects of these injuries in sports, and justifiably so. The attention intensified with the recent suicide of a great National Football League player.
Athletic director Tom Osborne, not one given to overstatement, said he expects significant work to be done here, and acknowledges UNL's leadership in the prestigious partnership of Big Ten and Ivy League schools. Molfese also is director of collaborative research efforts for the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the Big Ten’s internal academic association.
Most of the existing research on concussions has occurred on people after the injury, according to Molfese.
"There’s been no baseline data about how their brain and behavior were really functioning before. But with athletics now, we have a great opportunity to see the baseline data and see how things changed after the concussion occurred.”
That's a sobering and valuable opportunity. He estimated there may be as many as 20 concussions a year among players in Nebraska.
Molfese said at least 65 football players already have agreed to participate in the research. Members of Nebraska’s women’s soccer team also are participating.
Prem Paul, vice chancellor for research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said others are paying attention.
"It’s good that the other institutions in the Big Ten recognize that we have this unique capability and we can bring something to the table, and they’re excited about it,” he said.
This is a great opportunity for our public university to further distinguish itself in serving not just athletes and athletic conferences, but the world.