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U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, plans to use his House Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship to launch a congressional review of concussions in 2016, his office said Tuesday.

The causes and after-effects of concussions will be investigated by several subcommittees of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The review team will gather testimony from experts with the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. military, as well as professional and collegiate sports to “increase collaboration and advance the understanding of concussions,” according to a Monday press release.

“This problem goes well beyond the battlefield and the gridiron,” Upton said. “It’s a matter of public health as these injuries are prevalent in all ages and across the population.”

The Christmas Day release of the Will Smith film “Concussion” has renewed public interest in the consequences of concussions, which occur when a blow or shaking of the head causes the brain to move quickly within the skull. The sudden movement of the brain can disrupt communication between different parts of the brain.

Though primarily an information-gathering process, Upton’s legislative hearings could potentially lead to proposals for new laws or increased funding for concussion prevention and treatment.

He used a similar approach to his 21st Century Cures Act that was approved by the House in July and would speed up the process for federal approval of new medical treatments and devices. The legislation, a major priority of Upton’s, is awaiting action in the GOP-controlled Senate.

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot we don’t know about head trauma — how it effects different subsets of the population, the short and long term effects, and other details critical to developing effective diagnostics and treatments,” Upton said.

Steve Broglio, an associate professor of kineseology and a concussion researcher at the University of Michigan, said concussion research is in its infancy. There are few answers to the public’s many questions about concussions because the science does not yet exist.

“If (Upton) has a committee and from that comes more funding for research or athlete trainers at high schools, that could help,” Broglio said.

“Where we were in the 1950s with ... heart (research), that’s where we’re at with concussion (research) today. We have a long way to go.”

kbouffard@detroitnews.com

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