Mission & History
Our mission and vision
The Concussion Legacy Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in the United States with chapters in Canada and the United Kingdom. It was founded by Robert Cantu, MD, and Chris Nowinski, PhD to support athletes, veterans and all affected by concussions and CTE, to promote smarter sports and safer athletes through education and innovation, and End CTE through prevention and research. CLF is a proud supporter of and collaborator with the Boston University CTE Center.
Our vision is a world without CTE, and concussion safety without compromise.
Our History - CLF Australia
The Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) was founded in 2007 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization by Chris Nowinski, Ph.D. and Robert Cantu, M.D. Nowinski met Dr. Cantu, a world-renowned concussion expert, while seeking treatment for the Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) he developed from a concussion suffered during his career as a professional wrestler with WWE. In one visit Dr. Cantu changed everything Nowinski knew about concussions. As both a college and professional athlete, Nowinski had never learned the signs and symptoms of a concussion. He did not know how to recognize or report them during his football career at Harvard University. He didn’t know the value of resting after a concussion, nor was he warned of the long-term effects from injury, or repetitive head impacts. Nowinski decided to bring the information Dr. Cantu taught him into the public eye and set a goal to change how concussions were understood and handled in sports.
Along the way, Nowinski and Dr. Cantu recognized the importance of the little-known neurodegenerative disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which was linked to head impacts, in exposing that concussions and repeated head impacts could have severe lifelong consequences. CTE was previously known as “punch drunk” syndrome because it was thought to only exist in boxers, but prior to 2005 there were only 45 cases ever diagnosed in the world’s literature. After CTE was identified in two American football players, Nowinski recognized that building the world’s first CTE-focused brain bank and rapidly accelerating research on CTE would change the global conversation on concussions in sports. Nowinski soon launched the world’s first outreach program to the families of recently deceased athletes – and eventually Veterans and others - to facilitate brain donation for research. After proving the model by discovering former NFL player Andre Waters had CTE when he died by suicide in 2006 – which was covered in a front-page story in the New York Times - they began building a home for future research and advocacy by founding the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
Today, CLF’s mission is to support athletes, Veterans and all affected by concussions and CTE; achieve smarter sports and safer athletes through education and innovation; and to End CTE through prevention and research. In 2008 CLF and the Boston University School of Medicine partnered, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to form the Boston University CTE Center and found the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, which now includes the largest CTE tissue repository in the world. The BU CTE Center is now part of the NIH-funded Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (BUADRC). CLF has chapters in Canada and the United Kingdom, and has partnered with leading brain banks in Australia, Brazil and New Zealand to study CTE as part of the CLF Global Brain Bank.
The Concussion Legacy Foundation funds and supports concussion and CTE research worldwide while translating new research findings into education programs, policies, and initiatives to allow sports to be played more safely. By training coaches to talk to their teams about concussions, Team Up Speak Up is teaching millions of youth athletes how to recognize and respond to concussions. The CLF Media Project trains sports media professionals and sports journalism students how to cover concussions accurately and with confidence. Advocacy programs such as Flag Football Under 14 and Safer Soccer are changing the way sports are played to prevent concussions and CTE. Research programs like Project Enlist are serving as a catalyst for advancing our understanding of traumatic brain injury (TBI), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and CTE and in military Veterans. CLF provides guidance, comfort, care, and resources to patients and caregivers of those suffering with concussion or suspected CTE symptoms through patient and family services programs like the CLF HelpLine.
Drs. Cantu and Nowinski also advise numerous sports organizations, including the National Football League, NFL Players Association, the Ivy League, NOCSAE, and World Rugby, to create change from the top down. While CLF has had many successes since 2007, we will not rest until sports are safer and effective treatments for concussions and CTE are developed.
CLF’s work has been featured by the New York Times, 60 Minutes, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, BBC, PBS, HBO Real Sports, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America and many other news and media outlets.
Associate Professor Alan Pearce is a clinical neurophysiologist and recognised as the pre-eminent concussion researcher in Australia and internationally for his work into mild brain injury in sport. A/Prof Pearce has a PhD in neurophysiology from the Department of Medicine at University of Western Australia and has since published over 230 publications, including two edited books and over 15 research book chapters on exercise neuroscience and concussion across a 20 year career. His work has been focused on recovery and neuroplasticity changes associated with mild brain injury for the last 15 years. A/Prof Pearce has been the lead researcher reporting the first studies in Australia on long-term neurophysiological outcomes of repeated concussions in Australian Rules footballers in 2014, Rugby league and union players in 2017 and most recently published in 2021, the largest study completed on retired athletes with concussion and head trauma history. His work continues in developing clinical neurophysiological protocols for detection of probable CTE in contact sport athletes.