NCAA Chief Medical Officer Explores Research


Walter Rich

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Visit focused on brain research, concussions in sport, and student mental health

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  • Brian Hainline visit with Georgia Tech Leadership Brian Hainline visit with Georgia Tech Leadership
  • Brian Hainline visit with Emory Brian Hainline visit with Emory
  • Brian Hainline visit with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Brian Hainline visit with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) chief medical officer, Brian Hainline, M.D., was introduced to collaborative research activities at Georgia Tech, Emory University, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and the Shepherd Center during a two-day visit in Atlanta.


Hainline oversees the NCAA Sport Science Institute (SSI)—a national center of excellence that functions as a resource to provide safety, health and medical expertise, and research for physicians, athletic trainers and all stakeholders across collegiate sports. Through a partnership with leading medical and sports medicine organizations, student-athletes, NCAA membership and key sport stakeholders, the Sport Science Institute focuses on nine strategic priorities. Two of those strategic priorities - concussion and mental health - were the primary topics of discussions during Hainline’s visit.


“Being devoted to doing everything possible to promote and develop the health, safety and well-being of all student-athletes” is the purpose of his role, according to Hainline.


Bud Peterson, president of Georgia Tech and the NCAA’s board of governors, and Susan Margulies, chair of the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, hosted a series of research-focused meetings with leadership, faculty, students and staff from Georgia Tech, Emory School of Medicine, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and the Shepherd Center.


Todd Stansbury, Georgia Tech’s athletics director, Steven McLaughlin, dean of the College of Engineering, and Michelle LaPlaca, associate professor of biomedical engineering, joined Peterson and Margulies to provide an overview of translational concussion research being conducted across Tech and opportunities for student-athletes interested in STEM careers, along with collaborations with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University.


Afterwards, Hainline attended a second, larger meeting of neuroscientists, neuroengineers, and clinicians from all four invited institutions to review a selection of brain-related research being performed by each. The paucity of effective diagnosis and treatment strategies for many brain diseases, including concussion, is an important area of emphasis for many—including the NCAA.


Donna Hyland, CEO and president of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, hosted Hainline at their new integrated outpatient facility adjacent to the interstate 85 corridor. During a short tour, the design and concept of the facility was shared with Hainline, as well as plans to build a pediatric hospital on the 70-acre green-space campus.


Children’s is not only one of the nation’s leading pediatric care hospitals but also triages and treats concussion patients across metro Atlanta and through Georgia.  Clinicians and researchers at Children’s are also performing pediatric concussion research along with Emory and Georgia Tech. Children’s is actively engaged with Atlanta-area organized sports and medical care providers to better educate the community about detection and treatment of concussion.


“Collectively, our Atlanta-area healthcare, engineering and brain research communities offer unique strengths that we wanted to share with the NCAA,” said Margulies. She is the Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Injury Biomechanics and is one of the world’s top researchers on traumatic brain injury in children. The methods she’s developed for diagnosing and assessing these injuries are helping children receive earlier and more effective treatment, and understand the influence of repeated head injuries on the developing brain.


“The Coulter Department is a top ranked biomedical engineering program, embedded within an outstanding medical school, and the nation’s largest engineering college,” said Margulies. “We were very pleased that Dr. Hainline was interested in learning more about our collaborative research that align with the NCAA priorities in health and wellness.”


On the Emory campus, David Stephens, vice president for research for the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and chair of the Department of Medicine, along with Allan Levey, chairman of the Department of Neurology at Emory University, and director of the Emory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center shared important research activities and possible collaboration areas with Dr. Hainline.


Later that day, the research topic shifted specifically to concussion research, one of the key reasons for Hainline’s visit. Several presentations were made by members of the Georgia Concussion Research Consortium. The consortium brings together more than 50 world-class investigators from some of Georgia’s top research institutions. The lab of Erin Buckley, an assistant professor within the Coulter Department, is searching for an objective biomarker indicative of brain health. Her work seeks noninvasive ways to make a better diagnosis. Investigators from Georgia Tech, Emory School of Medicine, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and the Shepherd Center each discussed activities in the area of concussion research, assessment, and diagnosis.


“Improving athlete health in the area of concussions is a shared research topic across the state,” said LaPlaca, one of the principal organizers for Hainline’s visit. Her lab has developed a  virtual reality platform to objectively detect symptoms of traumatic brain injuries across different neurological domains, like balance and memory.


“Each concussion is different and the factors that influence the degree of injury and recovery course are not well understood,” said LaPlaca. “The research being done in my lab and by other investigators across Georgia could be of great benefit to both athletes and non-athletes. We are honored to host Dr. Hainline and were so glad he devoted nearly two days to gain a better understanding of the cutting-edge, neuro-related research being done in our region.”


Wrapping up the visit was a round table discussion and dinner, hosted by Peterson, inviting candid discussion surrounding the topic of athlete mental health. 

Additional Information


Wallace H. Coulter Dept. of Biomedical Engineering

Biotechnology, Health, Bioengineering, Genetics
Related Core Research Areas
Bioengineering and Bioscience
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  • Created By: Walter Rich
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Aug 28, 2018 - 1:29pm
  • Last Updated: Aug 28, 2018 - 1:29pm