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Health Team

UNC concussion researcher receives MacArthur 'genius grant'

Posted September 20, 2011 9:48 a.m. EDT

— A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researcher has received a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" in recognition of his work to treat sports-related concussions and improve athletes' safety.

Kevin Guskiewicz, chairman of UNC's Department of Exercise and Sports Medicine, will receive $500,000 over the next five years as one of the 22 new fellows named by the MacArthur Foundation of Chicago.

Guskiewicz said he would use the money to support ongoing research at UNC into concussion injuries and sports.

"The MacArthur Fellowship will help us expand our work into developing injury prevention strategies and rehabilitation protocols for concussion that can help to preserve sports as we know it today," he said in a statement.

Guskiewicz first became concerned about concussions when he was an athletic trainer with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the early 1990s.

With retired NFL players, he documented a high correlation between athletes who suffered multiple concussions and the early onset of neurodegenerative changes, such as depression and dementia, after retirement from sport.

He advises the National Collegiate Athletic Association and National Football League on concussions and head, neck and spine injuries. He also helped write concussion guidelines recommended by the NCAA, NFL, National Athletic Trainers' Association and American College of Sports Medicine.

Guskiewicz said he is not seeking to fundamentally change football or other contact sports but wants to help coaches and players find ways to stay safe.

"Concussion is a very complex injury. Managing this injury effectively is sort of like piecing together a puzzle. Piece by piece, we gain a clearer picture of concussion and its severity," he said. "As scientists, coaches, administrators and doctors, we bear the responsibility of keeping our athletes safe."

UNC leaders praised Guskiewicz for his work and recognition.

"Kevin Guskiewicz is a wonderful example of how a faculty member's innovative research – both in the lab and in the field – advances knowledge that saves lives," said Chancellor Holden Thorp. "He has become one of the go-to experts in America when it comes to the widespread problem of sports-related concussions. We are thrilled and proud that the MacArthur Foundation has selected him for such important recognition."