Concussions Researcher Wins 'Genius Grant'

Among 22 winners of $500,000, no-strings-attached awards announced Sept. 20 by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation was Kevin Guskiewicz, who has focused his research on sports-related concussions.

This year's MacArthur Fellows were announced Sept. 20, with a cellist, a radio producer, a jazz percussionist/composer, and two poets included among the 22 suddenly famous names. Each of them will get $500,000 in no-strings-attached support during the next five years from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

One of them is Kevin Guskiewicz, the Kenan Distinguished Professor and chair of the department of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill's College of Arts and Sciences. He also is co-director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center and research director for the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes.

Guskiewicz researches sports-related concussions, focusing on repeated, sub-threshold brain impacts, according to the foundation and the university. "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 UNC 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."

Guskiewicz helped write concussion guidelines that are recommended by the National Athletic Trainers Association and the American College of Sports Medicine. He has worked with retired NFL players and current college players, documenting through his work with NFL veterans that there is a high correlation between those who have suffered multiple concussions in their careers and the early onset depression and dementia after retirement.

"We have an amazing interdisciplinary research team at UNC, and the MacArthur Fellowship will help us to expand our work into developing injury prevention strategies and rehabilitation protocols for concussion that can help to preserve sports as we know it today," Guskiewicz said in the university's news release about the award.

It said Guskiewicz has received 20 funded research grants and has published more than 90 journal articles and seven textbook chapters related to sports concussions. In 2010, he was named to the NCAA's concussion committee and the NFL's head, neck and spine committee.

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