Our research is driven by clinical relevance.

We adhere to scientific standards.

Therapy

Since 2001, the graduated return-to-sport programme has been the gold standard after concussion. This includes a resting phase that lasts until the initial symptoms have abated. Our therapeutic projects evaluate the effects of physical activity (without risk of contact or head injury) and specific (vestibular and oculomotor) therapeutic measures on time until return to competitive sport for different diagnoses and primary symptoms.

Screening

One of the main challenges is the absence, to date, of measures for estimating the severity of the head injury on the touchline and during competition. This is because concussion is a dynamic injury, the course of which may change suddenly and unexpectedly after the event. Our collaborative project “Improvement in diagnostics on the sports field/touchline” is developing a combined test for the documentation of relevant neurological functions. The results should support the team physician / medical team to make a decision on whether the player can be passed as fit to continue participating in the competition or whether the player must be removed from the competition and potentially referred directly to hospital.

Diagnostics

In addition to the prevention of head injuries and immediate screening on the touchline, a core focus is the optimum medical treatment of the athlete after a head injury. Due to the different therapeutic consequences, our primary diagnostic interest after a head injury is the distinction between a primary central functional disorder (concussion or brain injury) and a peripheral disorder in the region of the balance organ in the inner ear (inner ear concussion or injury) or injury to the cervical spine. Preseason baseline tests help to identify even the smallest of abnormalities that an athlete may not notice in everyday life. In addition, “normal” test results after a head injury may also be of clinical relevance to practicing a given sport. We focus on the development and compilation of an ideal test battery for the athlete, to ensure that the different neurological systems are assessed as objectively as possible and to guarantee an early and safe return to the sport.

Potential long-term consequences

The long-term consequences of (repeated) head injuries are the subject of controversial discussions. The main focus relates to the effects of head injuries on the development of neurodegenerative disease (such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Alzheimer’s dementia or mild cognitive impairment) and affective disorders (such as anxiety or depression). Our multi-centre project (“Long-term health problems of former elite football players”) is investigating the effects of football on cognitive performance after the end of the professional career.