What We Do
The International Concussion and Head Injury Research Foundation (ICHIRF) is part of a multi-centred, multi-sport, longitudinal study on retired athletes and is the largest research project of its kind in the world.
International research is currently focused on two different aspects of concussion – the immediate diagnosis of concussion (and the return to sport following this), and the long-term effects that may only become apparent twenty or more years later (the focus of the ICHIRF project).
ICHIRF’s objectives are to establish if participation in impact sports can increase the risk of altered brain function in later life, and if concussion in sport can result in the early onset of confusion, depression and memory loss. The only way to establish this is to compare a group of athletes who have suffered at least one concussion with a similar group who have never had concussion (the control group). The recruitment of volunteers who have never had concussion is therefore an essential part of the ICHIRF project.
There are two topics of current interest to the ICHIRF team:
- a) The unexplained increase in concussion rates seen in female riders (approximately 3.6 times higher than the rates seen in male riders.)
- b) The genetic fingerprint that determines which athletes are resistant to changes in brain function following impact sports.
ICHIRF is uniquely placed to research both these areas because:
- a) Unlike the other sports taking part in this project, horse racing involves large numbers of female competitors and it is the only impact sport where men and women regularly compete side by side on equal terms.
- b) Horse racing has the highest rates of concussion recorded in any sport and yet retired jockeys do not appear to be more at risk of deteriorating brain function in later life. It is therefore important to establish what scientific proof is available to support or disprove this impression, and to see if the same applies to other impact sports.
ICHIRF collaborates, and shares its findings, with similar research projects in Australia, Europe and North America – the Florey Institute in Melbourne, the Sports Surgery Clinic in Dublin, the Swiss Concussion Centre in Zurich and the Centre for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, USA. These centres undertake research on Australian Rules Football, Rugby Union, Rugby League, Football (Soccer), American Football and Ice Hockey.
Anyone willing to offer financial support should contact ICHIRF directly at: Pippa@ICHIRF.org
Download a PDF version of our ICHIRF Summary Statement from Jan 1st 2017.
How We Started
Dr Turner’s interest in concussion and sports-related head injuries started with his early involvement in international freestyle skiing and increased dramatically during his 23 years with British horseracing. His ground-breaking concussion protocol for jockeys was rolled out in 2003, shortly after the 1st Concussion Consensus Conference held in Vienna in 2001, and was the first standardised concussion program in any non-team sport in the world.
With his retirement from horseracing looming in 2013, Dr Turner created N-CHIC (the National Concussion and Head Injury Centre) and concussion research on retired jockeys was born. With initial funding from a private sponsor in Hong Kong, and the generous support of the Injured Jockeys Fund and Godolphin Racing, this rapidly evolved into the ICHIRF project as it is now.
The ICHIRF concept generated international interest in horse racing circles and amongst other concussion researchers, and Dr Turner presented a summary of the project at numerous conferences in the UK, Europe, the Far East and the USA. At one of these, Dr John York MD (the chairman of the NFL Owners Health and Safety Advisory Committee since its inception in 2011, a member of the NFL Health and Safety Committee, International Committee and Audit Committee and a former racecourse owner) expressed an interest and, with his support, the National Football League subsequently agreed to support the project.
As the project has progressed, additional financial support has been provided by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), the Racing Foundation and the British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine (BASEM), a reflection of the widespread appeal of this extremely import £2.0m research initiative.
The ICHIRF Protocol
You will be sent a unique login code and a link to the questionnaire website. The questionnaire normally takes about 15 minutes to complete and requires no special medical information (e.g. no dates of injuries or accidents). If you have problems with the online version, we can always send you the paper copy of the questionnaire to complete at home. Once you are in the system, you’ll get an annual reminder to complete the next questionnaire, for the duration of the research project.
The main research project focuses on the annual questionnaires but a small number of volunteers (concussed and controls) will be invited to attend screening sessions in London. This will normally take one day and involve MRI scanning, blood tests and physical examination by a number of consultants (neurology, neuro-psychology). You can refuse the offer of screening without changing your participation in the main research project. Volunteers who agree to screening will get a detailed explanation of what is involved, with the necessary Consent Forms. The cost for the screening is covered by ICHIRF who will also reimburse all reasonable travel expenses for volunteers and their partner/spouse. Volunteers MUST be over 18 and there are no costs for taking part in the project if you are resident in the UK, Ireland or France.
“I very much welcome this initiative. In boxing we accept the challenge of concussion and this research will help us to deal with it.”
Screening doesn’t result in medical advice. Please remember that this is a research project, not a simple ‘check-up’, so the significance of some of the screening tests may not be available for several years. In addition, you cannot insist on being screened or buy a screening slot. Concussion in Sport is a research organisation, and cannot act as a drop-in medical clinic for current or retired athletes who have had a concussion.
All volunteers will receive a copy of the annual report with details of how the project is progressing. The results of individual screenings will not be available to volunteers unless an unexpected adverse finding is highlighted. In any situation where a finding could impact the current or long term health of the individual, this information will be sent to the volunteer and to their nominated medical practitioner. Volunteers who agree to undergo screening must sign a Consent Form allowing any adverse findings to be passed on to their nominated medical practitioner. Failure to grant consent will automatically exclude the individual from physical screening but will not affect their continued participation in the main research project.
If you have any queries on our screening process, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Concussion in Sport via ICHIRF, 1st Floor ISEH Building, 170 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 7HA.