Penn State researchers are conducting a multi-year study to examine the consequences of head acceleration events and their correlation to the disruption of normal brain development. The research team will pinpoint critical thresholds between sub concussive blows—e.g. impacts that fall below the concussion threshold but players may experience on a daily basis—and those full-blown concussive injuries in order to more accurately measure the effects of sub concussive injuries throughout an athletic season.

An Interdisciplinary Effort

This interdisciplinary effort involves a holistic assessment of student-athletes and involves the collection of data before, during and after multiple football seasons. By utilizing a combination of research evaluation protocol and procedures, as well as methods, the Penn-based team will seek to progress society’s knowledge about the dangers involved with sports such as football.


The researchers will collect data from 30 participating football players. This protocol will be implemented in an additional two more upcoming football seasons. The hope that the results will generate a significant data set augmenting researchers understanding about concussion in a bid to prevent the impact of concussions on the lives of individuals.

In a subsequent phase, David Vandenbergh, professor of behavioral health, will investigate genetic contributions to resilience versus susceptibility and high risk for brain injury after high acceleration events.


The study is supported by the NCAA and U.S. Department of Defense CARE Consortium (Concussion Assessment, Research and Education Consortium). Additionally the Derek Sheely Foundation contributes to this important initiative.

Lead Research/Investigator

Semyon Slobounov, professor of kinesiology, Penn State

Tesa Johns (monitor for Phase I involving acceleration events)

David Vandenbergh, professor of behavioral health, Neuroscience Faculty, The Neuroscience Institute, The Huck Institutes for the Life Sciences

Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, director of athletic medicine, Penn State

Dr. Pete Seidenberg, Penn States Sports Medicine

Call to Action: Interested in the potential impact of football to the human brain? Follow this study.

Source: Penn State University

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