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Head first: sports brain bank launched

27 March 2018
Six former pro-footballers have pledged their brains to the new Australian Sports Brain Bank launched today at the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Centre.

Dr Michael Buckland heads the Australian Sports Brain Bank, a joint effort of the University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital

The Australian Sports Brain Bank is a partnership between Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre and the Concussion Legacy Foundation Global Brain Bank.

Scientists and high-profile sports stars concerned about the long-term effects of head impacts in sports are supporting the sports brain bank.

The first six athletes to pledge include former National Football League player Colin Scotts; former AFL players Sam Blease and Daniel Chick; former rugby union player Peter FitzSimons; and former NRL players Ian Roberts and Shaun Valentine.

Barry Taylor’s CTE diagnosis is a wake-up call.
Associate Professor Michael Buckland, University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital

Brains trust - Professor Ian Hickie, Dr Adrian Cohen, Peter FitzSimons, Dr Michael Buckland and Colin Scotts

They are calling on Australians who have played sports at all levels to sign up and donate their brain so researchers can better understand links between head impacts and diseases like Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease associated with repeated blows to the head, including concussions.

CTE has been linked to exposure to head impacts in sports like boxing and American football, and was recently diagnosed for the first time in Australian sportsman, former Manly rugby player Barry “Tizza” Taylor.

“Barry Taylor’s CTE diagnosis is a wake-up call,” says the head of new the Australian Sports Brain Bank, Associate Professor Michael Buckland.

CTE has been diagnosed in hundreds of athletes in the United States, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Brazil, and it’s time to commit to understanding the burden of CTE in Australian sportspeople, as well as to learning how to prevent and treat the disease, by studying their brains after death.”

“We look forward to collaborating with Dr Buckland and the Australian Sports Brain Bank team and welcome their future contributions to the global fight against CTE.
Dr Chris Nowinski, Founder the Concussion Legacy Foundation Global Brain Bank

Global collaboration

The Australian Sports Brain Bank is an exclusive Australian collaborator with the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) Global Brain Bank.

CLF will assist with outreach and recruiting efforts in Australia, and all athletes worldwide can sign up to pledge to donate their brain at GlobalBrainBank.org.

CLF co-created the world’s first, and now largest, sports brain bank in the United States in 2008. The VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank is a collaboration with researchers at Boston University (BU) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a federal government agency dedicated to medical care of military veterans.

It was their team that studied Barry Taylor’s brain in 2013, and he is among 300 CTE cases diagnosed among more than 500 brains donated in the last decade.

“We look forward to collaborating with Dr Buckland and the Australian Sports Brain Bank team and welcome their future contributions to the global fight against CTE,” said Chris Nowinski, PhD, founding CEO of CLF, and head of outreach and recruiting for the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank.

Australian Brain Bank researchers will generate a full neuropathology report on donated brains and results will be sent to the donor’s nominated doctor. Brain tissue will be stored and made available to researchers for many years to come.

Members of Global Brain Bank commit to collaborative research, including using common study methods, common data elements, and sharing data to accelerate global understanding, prevention, and treatment of CTE and other consequences of head impacts in sport.

The Australian Sports Brain Bank will collaborate with a number of scientists and charities in Australia to raise awareness of the need for brain donation and encourage athletes to sign up, including charities like StopConcussions, Brain Injury Australia, and HeadSafe.

News coverage

Brain bank is a big boost to making everyone aware of concussion - Peter FitzSimons

Australia's first sports brain bank launched to find head injury and disease link - Sydney Morning Herald

'Brain bank' -- football stars donate brains to science - SBS News

Australian sports 'Brain Bank' opens in Sydney - ABC Radio's AM

 

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