News Release

Boston University researchers to launch new online study to explore the impact of contact sports on brain health

Looking to enroll thousands of people who played soccer or tackle football at any level of play (youth, high school, college, semi-pro, or elite/professional)

Business Announcement

Boston University School of Medicine

(Boston)— Internationally-renowned researchers from Boston University (BU) and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) are launching a new study, called the Head Impact & Trauma Surveillance Study (HITSS). HITSS will examine the risks for developing dementia, cognitive decline, and changes in behavior and mood later in life from repetitive head impacts (RHI) in soccer and tackle football. Funding for HITSS, which will be the largest study of its kind, is provided by a five-year grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute on Aging.

“Millions of Americans are exposed to repetitive head impacts through participation in contact and collision sports,” said HITSS Principal Investigator Robert Stern, PhD, Director of Clinical Research for the BU Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center and Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Anatomy & Neurobiology at BU School of Medicine. “Exposure to repetitive hits to the head have been associated with later life brain disease and disorders,” Stern continued. “However, critical gaps in scientific knowledge remain, and many important questions need to be answered. We developed HITSS to find these answers.”

“Through HITSS, we want to determine whether subconcussive head impacts from ordinary plays, such as heading a soccer ball or routine blocking and tackling in football, increase risk for later life mood and behavioral changes, as well as for memory and thinking impairments,” added HITSS co-investigator, Michael Weiner, M.D., Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, Medicine, Psychiatry, and Neurology at UCSF.

In addition to examining the risk factors for cognitive impairment, neurobehavioral dysregulation and dementia, HITSS aims to determine if sex, race, social determinants of health, vascular risk profile, sleep quality, and/or substance abuse modify risks from RHI exposure from participation in soccer and tackle football.

HITSS is a fully-online, annual assessment, which includes: questions about sports participation, RHI exposure, and concussion and medical history; computerized memory and cognitive tests; and behavior and mood questionnaires. The entire survey can be completed in around two hours, in the comfort and privacy of the participant’s home, at any time and over several days, if desired. HITSS is an extension of the existing Brain Health Registry (BHR) at UCSF, an online study, directed by Weiner, of more than 80,000 participants used for the study of people interested in participating in brain aging, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and AD related dementias research.

“While there have been significant research advances in recent years, past studies have been limited by focusing solely on former professional tackle football players and/or including only small numbers of male participants,” stated Matt Roebuck, HITSS Recruitment Coordinator. “To move the science forward, we are launching a nationwide campaign, featuring several familiar faces from soccer and tackle football, to enroll thousands of people who played organized soccer or tackle football at any point in their lives.”

The HITSS recruitment campaign will feature several prominent former professional soccer and tackle football players who have volunteered to be HITSS Ambassadors. These Ambassadors, listed at, have shared videos, quotes and/or their social media platforms to help encourage people to enroll in HITSS.

To enroll in HITSS, or for more information on the research project, visit Individuals currently aged 40 or older, who played soccer or tackle football at any level of play (youth, high school, college, semi-pro, or elite/professional) are eligible to enroll.



Originally established in 1848 as the New England Female Medical College, and incorporated into Boston University in 1873, Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) today is a leading academic medical center with an enrollment of more than 700 medical students and 1,180 students pursuing degrees in graduate medical sciences. BUSM faculty contribute to more than 605 active grants and contracts, with total anticipated awards valued at more than $211 million in amyloidosis, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, infectious diseases, pulmonary disease and dermatology, among other areas. The School’s teaching affiliates include Boston Medical Center, its primary teaching hospital, the Boston VA Healthcare System, Kaiser Permanente in northern California, as well as Boston HealthNet, a network of 15 community health centers. For more information, please visit


The Brain Health Registry (BHR) is an online registry for recruitment, assessment, and longitudinal monitoring of cognition, function, and health in adult volunteers. The overall mission of BHR is to accelerate the development and implementation of improved diagnostic methods and treatments for Alzheimer’s and other disorders impacting cognitive and functional impairment. For more information, visit BHR’s Spanish-language website or English-language website.


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