TGen and Arizona Community Foundation partner to support ASU football concussion research

TGen Concussion Research Fund is first under ACF’s new Jerry Colangelo Center for Sports Philanthropy

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PHOENIX, Ariz. — June 10, 2014 — The Arizona Community Foundation has created a new philanthropy center named for Arizona sports mogul Jerry Colangelo, and the Center’s first project is a fund to support concussion research led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), in partnership with Riddell, Barrow Neurological Institute and Arizona State University.

The TGen Concussion Research Fund is the first charitable endeavor under the Arizona Community Foundation’s newly established Jerry Colangelo Center for Sports Philanthropy. ACF has contributed $25,000 to the TGen fund in support of this important work.

A generous philanthropist and one of the most influential leaders in business and sports in Arizona and across the nation, Colangelo has partnered with ACF to encourage athletes to support causes of personal importance and create a charitable legacy.  The Colangelo Center manages funds supporting sports-related causes and provides philanthropic giving vehicles and services for professional and retired athletes looking to make a positive impact in their communities.

“Sports have provided me most of the wonderful opportunities that I’ve enjoyed in my life, and like so many others who have benefited from this industry, we must finds ways to give back,” said Mr. Colangelo, the former owner of the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“Corporate and personal giving through ACF will allow for this, and I am proud to lend my name to their new Center for Sports Philanthropy,” said Colangelo, who now serves as CEO of USA Basketball.

The TGen Concussion Research Fund will support a TGen-led collaboration that began in 2013 with Riddell, Barrow Neurological Institute, and Arizona State University’s Sun Devil football team. This study is working to find a better way to diagnose concussions on the field. It compares football player head impact data with information uncovered through genetic testing of the players. The research could enable physicians to better identify when a player is concussed, and also when they might be expected to recover and get back on the field.

“By establishing the Center for Sports Philanthropy and the TGen Concussion Research Fund, Jerry Colangelo and the Arizona Community Foundation have generously created a permanent funding opportunity that will help find better ways to care for athletes now and in the future,” said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director.

Dan Arment, President of Riddell, concurred:  “As a partner in this important study led by TGen, we at Riddell hope to answer a number of key questions that will lead to improved player protection, inform our continued development of new football helmet innovations, and further refine player monitoring technology. With this research, we are on the cusp of identifying a more definitive way to diagnose concussive injury, which will benefit football players and athletes in the broader sports universe.”

“Sun Devil Athletics is a community asset and we take great pride in collaborating with these three important local leaders in the Arizona Community Foundation, TGen and the Barrow Neurological Institute, as well as industry pioneer Riddell,” Vice President for Sun Devil Athletics Ray Anderson said. “We are always striving to advance and progress all aspects of collegiate athletics, and the health and well-being of our student-athletes is at the forefront of this goal.”

“This research is the ‘holy grail’ of concussion diagnosis,” said Dr. Javier Cardenas, M.D., Director of the Barrow Concussion Center. “The research combines the greatest expertise in the state, and is another great example of how Arizona is leading the nation in concussion care.”

The Arizona Community Foundation provides the charitable vehicle for supporters to make tax-deductible donations to a professionally managed fund dedicated exclusively to the project. “We are honored to be TGen’s partner in supporting this critical genomic research that we expect will lead to better medical diagnosis and treatment of sports-related concussions,” said Steve Seleznow, president & CEO of the Arizona Community Foundation. “As one of TGen’s founding funders, ACF takes great pride in supporting their ever-expanding research that is improving medicine and healthcare here and across the globe. This new fund and the work it supports are yet another clear example of TGen’s value and importance in developing breakthrough solutions to major health problems.”

“We are grateful to Jerry Colangelo and the Arizona Community Foundation for bringing their leadership to our fight against concussions,” said Michael Bassoff, President of the TGen Foundation. “Both have incredible legacies of helping the community and we are pleased that they have embraced this cause.”

Donors interested in making a charitable donation to the TGen Concussion Research Fund can give securely online with a credit card at, or by mailing a check to ACF, 2201 E. Camelback Road, Suite 405B, Phoenix, AZ 85016, with a notation of “TGENCO” in the memo line. Or, call 602-682-2042 for personal assistance.

About the Study
Too often, concussions and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) go undiagnosed. There is mounting evidence that repeatedly undiagnosed mTBI can lead to long-term health problems. Unfortunately, there currently are no tests available to diagnose this damage in real time.

In May 2013, TGen partnered with Riddell, the leader in football helmet technology and innovation, Barrow Neurological Institute and A. T. Still University to embark on a study to advance athlete concussion detection and treatment. Expanding upon TGen’s work in the area of head trauma, the investigative team led by Drs. Kendall Van Keuren-Jensen and Matt Huentleman is working to identify biomarkers associated with documented concussion and sub-clinical concussion.

In September 2013, ASU and its Sun Devil football program joined the study. Riddell equipped Sun Devil student-athletes with the company’s proprietary helmet sensors and head impact monitoring system to collect impact data. Biological information from a player’s genome is merged with real-time head impact data provided by Riddell’s Sideline Response System (SRS). SRS provides researchers, athletic staff and players with information about the frequency and severity of head impacts during games and practices. The Sun Devils’ medical team, consisting of athletic trainers and physicians, did not see the data or interpret any results until the end of the season, and the student-athletes wearing the Riddell SRS sensors in their helmets volunteered to partake in the study.

TGen is measuring changes in RNA (DNA’s complimentary nucleic acid), associated with head impacts through samples of blood, saliva and urine. By using RNA as a sensitive indicator of changing conditions underlying brain injuries, this data could improve the ability to detect at-risk patients for future neurological, cognitive and behavioral complications.

Often, head injuries present no physical changes that can be viewed using conventional imaging techniques.

However, symptoms experienced by concussed athletes (headaches, loss of memory, temporary unconsciousness, confusion, drowsiness) indicate there are functional changes that can last several days. These symptoms possibly result from structural brain damage — only detectable at the molecular level — including torn axons and synaptic connections that prevent transmission of the brain’s electrical impulses.

As part of the study, TGen is working with the Barrow Neurological Institute, whose B.R.A.I.N.S. (Barrow Resource for Acquired Injury to the Nervous System) project treats patients age 15 and older who have sustained a traumatic brain or spinal cord injury. Joining with Barrow are athletic trainers from A.T. Still University and SAFE Football, which teaches alternative game-play techniques that reduce head impacts while increasing competitiveness.

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About Arizona Community Foundation:
Established in 1978, the Arizona Community Foundation is a statewide family of charitable funds supported by thousands of Arizonans. With five regional offices serving communities across Arizona, ACF is among the top 30 community foundations in the nation with more than 
$650 million in trust and endowment assets, and is certified under the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations. Last year, ACF and its affiliates awarded more than $40 million in grants and scholarship funding to some 3,000 nonprofit organizations, schools and government agencies. More information is available at

Media contact:
Megan Brownell

About TGen:
Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. TGen is focused on helping patients with cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes, through cutting edge translational research (the process of rapidly moving research towards patient benefit). TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and rare complex diseases in adults and children. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities literally worldwide, TGen makes a substantial contribution to help our patients through efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit:

Media contact:
Steve Yozwiak

About Arizona State University:
Arizona State University enrolls more than 73,000 undergraduate, graduate, online and professional students on its four campuses configured across the Phoenix metropolitan area. Offering outstanding resources for research and academics, ASU has developed a new model for the American research university, creating an institution that is committed to excellence, access and impact. As a New American University, ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good and assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.

Posted in AZBio News.