Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center want to study former college athletes' brains

On Wednesday, Dolphins Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa addressed the media for the first time since sustaining a concussion, and losing consciousness, during a game last month.

Also, last month, a Texas high school football player died after a head injury he received during a game.

The discussion around concussions and potential long-term effects has gained momentum in recent years, certainly more so than when Dan Neil played football.

The former Longhorns and Denver Broncos player said he's glad to see growing awareness of head injuries, and not just within his sport.

"You know when you play football that there’s a price to pay later in life, you just don’t really know what it is and the one you don’t want to pay is the cognitive stuff," said Neil. "So anything to reduce those cognitive issues that we’re seeing amongst retired players is great for the game." 

A new study out of the University of Texas Southwestern Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, with the help of funding from the Darrell K Royal Research Fund, will focus in on college athletes, taking a look at their brains years down the road.

Participants of CLEAATS, the College Level Aging Athlete Study, must be at least 50 years old and must have played at least one season of any college sport.

"There have only been a few investigations of people who only played college sports and now are over the age of 50 or 60 or so," said Dr. Munro Cullum, professor of psychiatry, neurology and neurological surgery at the UT Southwestern Medical Center. "So it will be among the first studies of this type to look at various aspects of brain health and, really, health histories as well."

They’ll be looking at "a variety of health-related conditions", not just concussions, and stick to those above 50 trying to zone in on what may be triggered by simply age or lifestyle choices versus a condition stemming from a college injury.

"There are so many factors to look at that a lot of the research that exists trying to relate concussions to cognition or behavioral function later in life - it's really very complicated to begin to tease out these factors, although that is one of the things we're interested in trying to do," said Dr. Cullum. 

The study can be done completely remotely. Once a participant is approved, there are online questionnaires that will take approximately 30 to 45 minutes. Once that is completed, there is a 10 to 15 minute phone interview. Participants will be compensated $50 for their time. 

To apply to participate in the study, click here