This story first appeared in the Sept. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.“>
As co-owner of the New York Giants, Steve Tisch is attuned to the dangers surrounding concussions in the NFL. But the Oscar-winning producer also cares deeply about the risks facing young athletes, which is why in May he pledged $10 million to UCLA’s BrainSPORT Program for concussion research, with a focus on the millions of youth who play sports. “If coaches get state-of-the-art information about how to recognize a head injury and how to treat it, it’s very comforting as a parent,” says Tisch, 65, whose daughter Holden, 14, sustained a concussion last year playing lacrosse.
Dr. Christopher Giza, the program’s director, notes that the young brain continuously is evolving. “If it gets damaged and is not allowed to recover, that development is going to go off the tracks,” he says. “The goal is to figure out the differences between concussion in kids and adults and then develop individualized treatment plans for the young athletes.” With Tisch’s gift, which Giza calls “transformative,” BrainSPORT will baseline test athletes from middle school to college and create diagnostic tools precisely calibrated for age and gender. Dr. Neil Martin, UCLA’s chair of neurosurgery, adds that the program will finally locate definitive answers to long-asked questions: ” ‘How many concussions are too many? How long do you have to wait before you can return to competition? Is there a long-term risk that might threaten brain function?’ We’re going to accumulate knowledge so that we can manage the game to be as safe as possible.”
By addressing these issues early, Tisch believes pro football’s future will benefit as well. “Our players start when they’re 8, 12 years old,” says Tisch, whose donation is the most an individual ever has given for the study of concussions. “Hopefully my gift to UCLA will inspire other NFL owners to do something similar. This is good for everybody.”
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