The NFL and GE announced 16 winning groups in the first round of their $20 million “Head Health Challenge” just six days ago. Looking at the list of winners, three are from outside the United States. Among the American groups, 12 states are represented.
California and Maryland have two winners each. However, the state with greatest representation is Indiana, with three.
The Purdue Neurotrauma Group will be working with the Brainscope Company of Bethesda, Md., “to conduct a study in collegiate athletes using imaging biomarkers such as functional MRI (fMRI) and Diffuse Tensor Imaging (DTI) to potentially enhance BrainScope’s urgent care, handheld EEG-based traumatic brain injury detection technology” reads the GE press release. “This study could provide a demonstration that the BrainScope system can function as a surrogate for these imaging biomarkers and as a field-based diagnostic for traumatic brain injury (TBI). This could potentially provide a more robust assessment of injury and recovery and lead to more objective return-to-play decisions.”
The Purdue Neurotrauma Group has already done pioneering research on sub-concussive blows to the head in high school football and soccer. They have found that football players who routinely use their helmets to strike their initial blow, while blocking or tackling, suffer significant cognitive impairment by season’s end. That damage takes months to clear. Those who don’t use their head as a weapon suffer no such damage.
The Indiana University School of Medicine’s Center for Neuroimaging, collaborating with St. Vincent Sports Performance of Indianapolis, “will use MRI to investigate how brain blood flow is altered after concussion in high school athletes,” according to the release. “Blood flow provides oxygen and nutrients to the brain and is a critically important aspect of brain function, but little is known about the impact of concussion on brain blood flow in athletes. This study will advance understanding of concussion’s effect on brain blood flow in the period shortly after injury and the relationship of these changes to post-concussive symptoms and cognitive functioning.”
Researchers at Notre Dame “are developing a mobile app to provide athletic trainers, coaches, physicians, and parents a fast, simple and more objective way to detect concussions,” GE said. “Unlike traditional concussion screening methods that require medical equipment, training, and take a longer time to administer, this mobile technology is being designed to recognize the changes in speech acoustics that occur with concussions. The anticipated result is a more objective, highly mobile concussion screening test that will take only two minutes to perform.”
Merrillville High School is among those participating in the Notre Dame research.
The goal of the Head Health Challenge “is to improve the safety of athletes, members of the military and society overall.” Each of the 16 chosen groups will receive $300,000 to finance their research. A year from now, as many as six of the 16 will be awarded another $500,000 to further their work and achieve the Challenge’s goal.
ERRATA: In my column two weeks ago, I wrote about a study on cognitive rest after concussion authored by New Jersey neuropsychologist Rosemarie Moser, PhD. It appeared in the journal Pediatrics in May 2012.