Film producer and New York Giants owner Steve Tisch is donating $10 million to UCLA so that researchers can focus on the diagnosis and treatments of sports-related brain injuries among young athletes, university officials announced Thursday.
The funding, regarded as the single largest gift from an individual to a medical center for a brain injury-related initiative, will allow the university to create the first U.S. fellowship program to train pediatric neurologists who specialize in sports concussions, UCLA officials said.
“As the father of children who are athletes, and as an NFL owner, I greatly value the positive role that sports play in people’s lives and am personally concerned about sports concussions,” Tisch said in a statement. “UCLA runs one of the best youth concussion programs in the nation, and I’m honored that my gift will allow the program to accelerate and expand its efforts to help kids, parents and coaches understand how to prevent and treat concussions and enjoy the sports that they love.”
Tisch’s announced donation comes on the same day that President Barack Obama held a first-of-its-kind summit at the White House Thursday to discuss the issue of youth sports and head injuries. The summit brought 200 sports officials, medical experts, parent activists and young athletes together to find new ways to identify, treat and prevent serious head injuries in youth sports. The White House released figures stating that at least 250,000 emergency visits are made by young people with sport or recreation-related brain injuries. Tisch’s gift is part of a broad, national effort among several groups to raise awareness and prevention of sports related injuries among youths, among other initiatives.
“There were a couple of times where I’m sure that ringing sensation in my head and the need to sit down for a while might have been a mild concussion, and at the time you didn’t think anything of it,” Obama told reporters, saying that it was time to change the culture of telling young athletes to “suck it up” after sustaining head injuries.
“The awareness is improved today, but not by much,” the president added.
Dr. Christopher Giza, who founded the BrainSPORT (Brain Sports concussion Prevention Outreach Research and Treatment) Program in 2012 at UCLA, attended the summit and also praised Tisch’s commitment. The program has been renamed the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program.
“Mr. Tisch’s generous gift will be an enormous game-changer, enabling us to create diagnostic tools customized to younger athletes,” Gaza said in a statement. “Currently, young athletes are assessed with adult tests — but kids aren’t little adults. With the right diagnosis and personalized care, kids can recover completely from concussion.”
Gaza said the program’s immediate goal is to “develop an age-appropriate concussion-evaluation tool that blends baseline testing, recordings from advanced biomechanical sensors, and expert neurological and cognitive exams. The tests will measure a concussion’s severity, determine the treatment and guide plans for the affected athlete’s return to competition.”
In addition to owning the Giants, Tisch is a producer in the entertainment industry, producing such films as the Academy-Award winning “Forrest Gump.”
“We salute Steve Tisch for his leadership in addressing a critical challenge that extends well beyond competitive sports,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the UCLA statement.
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