UT Southwestern’s CLEAATS is looking for former college athletes to suit up one more time
Wanted: Five hundred former college athletes, male and female, to answer a few questions online and in a phone interview about their athletic history, lifestyle, current cognitive and mental health, and more. Takes about an hour. Pay $50. Must be over 50 to apply.
If that sounds like you, Dr. C. Munro Cullum of UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute University Aging Athlete Study, or CLEAATS, wants you to dress down one more time.
CLEAATS is a catch-up attempt in an area where there has been little research on how sports-related concussions can impact brain well-being later in life. Former NFL players have come under intense scrutiny, both in the media and in scientific studies. Even high school athletes had their day as lab rats.
Former college athletes with no professional experience?
Turns out what you don’t know could hurt you. Or maybe not. That’s the goal of the study, which began last fall after a $500,000 grant from the Darrell K Royal Research Fund.
“A lot of parents, a lot of athletes now, are really, really worried about the potential long-term effects of concussions,” Cullum said recently. “I sometimes hear young people, even high school students, talking about CTE.
“And you know, there’s so much we don’t know.”
Cullum, the project’s co-principal investigator who has worked with the Cowboys and is a consultant for the Stars’ concussion testing program, is eager to see where this investigation leads. It provides a wide range of results from former NCAA and NAIA athletes who have played contact and non-contact sports. He does not discriminate.
Did you have one or more concussions in college? You qualify. No concussion? It is good too.
Having trouble remembering what you ate for breakfast?
You are there.
Can you still name everyone at the party last night?
I hate you, but Dr. Cullum will take you too.
The larger the study, the better, especially the response from women.
“There’s a real void in the literature in terms of what happens to aging female athletes in particular,” Cullum said.
Here’s what we know: Even after all the horror stories, lawsuits and media outreach over the past decade, myths still abound. For example, you don’t have to be knocked out to suffer a concussion, a temporary, often momentary, disruption of brain function. Indeed, in 90% of concussions diagnosed, the subject never loses consciousness. Nor should concussion victims spend days in a dark room with no media. They might get back to a regular routine after a few days, although athletes might take longer while stepping up their physical efforts.
And playing soccer or football or any sport commonly associated with concussions doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end up with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, defined by the Boston University CTE Center as a degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes, military veterans and others. with a history of head trauma.
“We don’t know who is really at risk for CTE,” Cullum said. “Just hitting your head a lot doesn’t necessarily cause CTE.”
In fact, most research suggests that high school, college, and professional athletes do very well in the long run. But that’s not exactly a comfort to parents who want to know if their child is more sensitive than others.
Cullum has spoken out at events where parents have told him, “Well, you wouldn’t let your son play football.”
In fact, he did.
Cullum is as personally invested as everyone else, which is why he’s grateful for the grant. Debbie Hanna, chair of the DKR Fund, said last fall at the study’s launch that the results “will be an important part of Coach Royal’s continued legacy and have the strong support of Edith Royal, who now well into her 90s, continues to be the driving force behind the DKR Research Fund No one has ever cared more deeply about the welfare of college athletes than Coach and Ms Royal, so this is a fitting move for this organization of fund and support.
Hanna added that she hopes the results allow society to “reasonably balance the risk and benefits of participating in college sports.”
But there is still a lot of work to do, starting with the accumulation of data. So far, the survey has attracted more than a hundred responses, still only a quarter of the minimum. And of these, only a quarter were women. Cullum wants equal representation. Besides, he would like a thousand answers. The more, the better in the first phase.
Once they get enough answers and verify the results, they want to refine it by conducting a larger, more in-depth study over several years that would include blood biomarkers, neuroimaging, and detailed cognitive assessments. Cullum hopes to dig deeper and see how gender, socioeconomic and racial differences impact the effects of concussions.
But, first of all, all former sportsmen of the university must do their homework and register. Google CLEAATS or go to cleaats.com or email Hannah Doggett at [email protected] Tell them your story. For once, someone will really listen.
Find more college sports coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.