Focusing on athletes and members of the military, the University of Michigan Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care has partnered with the Combat Casualty Care Research Program under the U.S. Department of Defense to research traumatic brain injury treatment.
Dr. Kevin Ward, director of the MCIRCC and Fast Forward Medical Innovation, said the collaboration was key to the research initiative.
“You have the great minds and integrated science teams at Michigan through MCIRCC, which is focused on critical illness and injury,” Ward said. “You’ve got the Department of Defense which also has a lot of resources and experience to bring. And then you have this family from the Detroit area that has made this magnificent gift. When you combine all these things, I think that more is possible. It is all about integration.”
For student athletes at the University brain injury research is particularly relevent, as many of them have experienced such injuries during their time as athletes.
Ani Sarkisian, forward for the University’s women’s soccer team, has had three concussions. She said brain injuries have a big impact on athletes.
“I think any sport would appreciate research on (severe traumatic brain injuries) done,” Sarkisian said. “We would really appreciate having any more prevention or precautionary things done to prevent concussions because right now it’s the only thing that really takes athletes out of their sport. You can bring them back from a hurt arm or a torn ACL, but when it’s about your brain it is a totally different issue.”
The research is supported by a 2015 donation to the University from the Joyce and Don Massey Family Foundation donated to the University in 2015 to fund research surrounding technological innovation, patient/family support, clinical treatment and therapy to those suffering from a traumatic brain injury, or TBI. The Foundation was set up to honor a family member who suffered from a TBI.
Department of Defense service members and families suffer from the most traumatic brain injuries in the United States, making brain injury research a particular area of interest for them as well. The Department of Defense has a unique level of experience and resources to bring to this initiative, including field medics who will act as mentors, according to a press release.
Dr. Ward said military personnel’s constant exposure to TBIs has the potential to further enhance research in the area.
“Over these years, traumatic brain injuries have been a huge problem for the military, where it has sort of become the signature injury,” Ward said. “We have not, holistically around the world and medicine and science, been able to move the dial. There are very few benefits to war, but one of those things is learning about trauma medicine.”