50 Years of GBIRG

Glasgow Brain Injury Research Group
is celebrating 50 years of study!

In celebration we’re posting notable moments from our lab’s history (orange), as well as relevant and interesting events from around the world (blue)!


The Lab Medicine Building at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital back in 1970 when GBIRG began

50 years ago Dr J. Hume Adams published an opinion paper titled Head Injuries.
In this paper he discussed two cases
of fatal head injury and announced his intentions to pursue a larger study of fatal head injuries with Dr D.I. Graham.

This study endeavoured to establish the frequency and the distribution of ischaemic and hypoxic brain damage. Thus began GBIRG. 

Coronal Brain Section image taken from Dr Adams’ article ‘Head Injuries’


In 1971,  Hume Adams was appointed to the first chair of Neuropathology.  The department also included Dr David I Graham as a lecturer in Neuropathology. 


Lucy Bronze was recently named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2020 for the second time, nearly 50 years after the FA lifted the ban on affiliated pitches hosting women’s football.

Also in 2020, Ex-England women’s footballer, Sue Lopez, became the first female player to publicly blame her dementia on years of heading the ball. You can read more in this BBC article by Abby Newbery.

The 1970’s started by giving us two unofficial women’s football world cup tournaments, one of which was the
1970-1 Women’s Football Association Mitre Challenge Trophy, which would later become the FA Womens‘ Cup. In 1972 the first official women’s international match was held in Great Britain, between England and Scotland, England coming from behind to win 3-2, starting off a new era of women’s football.

In 1972, Title IX was written into law in the USA, preventing discrimination in sports based on sex.

Kelly Smith celebrating in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2007 – theFA.com


1974 also saw the infamous Rumble in the Jungle boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.  Muhammad Ali competed in multiple highly-publicised boxing matches in the 1970s after his conviction for dodging the draft was overturned and he could once again compete in sanctioned matches. 

Although individual case reports had been published of boxers with chronic neurodegenerative diseases, the seminal paper discussing the association of neuropathological findings in boxers was published by the English pathologist, John Corsellis, in 1973, including neuropathological findings on the brains of 15 former amateur and professional boxers identifying  a characteristic pattern of cerebral change. 

The famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ boxing match pitted the undefeated world heavyweight champion, George Foreman, against challenger Muhammad Ali, the former heavyweight champion


Saw the creation of the Glasgow Coma Scale by Graham Teasdale and Bryan Jennett


Hume Adams published “Diffuse brain damage of immediate impact type: Its relationship to primary brainstem damage in head injury”. This paper showed photographic evidence of diffuse axonal injury, helping  to explain traumatic brain injury symptoms in people who have suffered concussions but do not appear to have significant head injury.


In 1977 the first MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine was tested, changing the face of diagnostic medicine for decades to come.

Its inventor, Dr. Raymond Damadian, was considered the “father of the MRI”



Graham DI, Adams JH, Doyle D published “Ischaemic brain damage in fatal non-missile head injuries” which was a landmark finding showing that there was a high frequency of secondary damage to the brain as a result of reduction in cerebral blood flow. This lead to a change in clinical practice and helped to improve outcomes after head injury.
Graham, Adams, and Doyle published “Ischaemic brain damage in fatal non-missile head injuries” which changed clinical practice with its landmark conclusion that secondary brain damage frequently resulted from reduced cerebral blood flow.


Argentina won a contentious FIFA world cupin front of a home crowd, when the country was under a brutal dictatorship.  

It was also the year of Ally MacLoedKenny Dalglish and Archie Gemmill in Scottish football. MacLoed managed the Scottish side with such high hopes only to be sent home after the first round, though Gemmil scoring maybe the one of the greatest goals of the competition in their last game of the cup.

Though a less successful world cup than hoped for Scotland, MacLoed was largely responsible for kindling an enthusiasm for the Scottish team that far exceeded anything which had gone before and probably since.  


October 1980 saw Larry Holmes defeat Muhammad Ali in “The Last Hurrah” boxing match, thereby marking the end of Ali’s career. The decision to go ahead with the match attracted criticism from Ali’s former ring doctor, who cited Ali’s worrying neurological scans.

“The Last Hurrah” boxing match – Larry Holmes vs. Muhammad Ali


In 1982 Hume Adams,  Graham, and colleagues in Glasgow published Diffuse axonal injury due to non-missle head injury in humans: An analysis of 45 cases‘ determining that immediate unconsciousness was related to widely distributed damage to myelinated axons in the brain. This became known as diffuse axonal injury or DAI.

Subsequent follow up studies into diffuse axonal injury established the beginning of a long collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania and determined that DAI resulted without direct impact to the head.


In 1983 Dr David Graham became Titular Professor in Neuropathology.

An eminent neuropathologist, Dr Graham, along with Dr Adams and Dr Doyle, established conclusively that ischaemic brain damage (IBD) is a cause of mortality and morbidity after head injury.


The 1986 Men’s World Cup saw Diego Maradona score the famous‘Hand of God’ goal against England. Is it possible that Maradona was already concerned about CTE related to heading the ball? Probably not… but it was a big moment nonetheless!


In 1989, Drs Graham, Ford, and Adams (Dr Adams having been elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh the year before in 1988) published Ischaemic brain damage is still common in fatal non-missile head injury

Also in 1989, Drs Adams, Doyle, and Ford published “Diffuse axonal injury in head injury: Definition, diagnosis and grading”, thereby completing another successful decade of brain injury research!


Watch here for more on the next 30 years!

The current Lab Medicine Building at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (2020)

Links to articles and More Info

Journal of Clinical Pathology: Head Injuries by J H Adams – 1970; 4: 176–177

1:  The Guardian: Women’s World Cup: from unofficial tournaments to record-breaking events
2:  The FA website: The History of Women’s Football In England
3:  Scottish Football Museum: Women’s Football In Scotland
4: The FA website: History of the Women’s FA Cup Final
5: BBC website: Ex-England women’s footballer blames dementia on heading

Annals of Neurology Diffuse axonal injury due to non-missle head injury in humans: An analysis of 45 cases1982; 12(6): 557-563

Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry : Ischaemic brain damage is still common in fatal non-missile head injury(1989) 52(3) 346-350

Histopathology: “Diffuse axonal injury in head injury: Definition, diagnosis and grading” (1989) 15(1) 49-59