The University of Colorado has been selected to lead the Pac-12 Conference's new initiative to use eye-tracking technology to better understand traumatic head injuries in student athletes.

The Pac-12 announced today that it has formed a Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Concussion Coordinating Unit, a multi-year and multi-site research initiative that will use the eye-tracking technology to study how to prevent and respond to head injuries in athletes.

CU will serve as the coordinating institution for the unit, with staffers helping establish data collection protocols for the Pac-12 and setting goals for assessing concussions.

"CU and other Pac-12 member universities have taken several steps in recent years to improve the health and wellness of our student-athletes," CU Athletic Director Rick George said in a statement. "I am pleased that CU will take the lead on coordinating the study of concussion impacts and prevention so that we can continue to look out for the best interests of student-athletes here and across the nation."

The initiative will use a medical device that is mounted on an athlete's head and uses an eye-tracking virtual reality system to record, view and analyze eye movements to track impairment.

Each school in the Pac-12 will receive two of the eye-sync devices from SyncThink, a California-based technology company.


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Matthew McQueen, an associate professor of integrative physiology at CU, will serve as one of the primary research investigators along with Theresa Hernandez of CU and Dawn Comstock of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus and the Colorado School of Public Health.

"CU Boulder leadership has fostered a healthy connection between athletics and academics, which opens doors for impactful projects like this," McQueen said in a statement.

Head injuries among athletes — particularly in football players — has been an area of concern in recent years as sports have been linked to brain injuries.

A recent study by Boston University found that 99 percent of football players who donated their brains for postmortem research had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, more commonly known as CTE.

Two former CU football players — Rahsaan Salaam and Drew Wahlroos — have killed themselves in the past two years. Wahlroos' brain was donated for CTE research, and while Salaam's family did not donate his brain for religious reasons, they also expressed concern the former running back suffered from the disease.

Mitchell Byars: 303-473-1329, byarsm@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/mitchellbyars