In the recent years, awareness has rapidly spread about the seriousness and commonality of traumatic brain injuries and concussions. This awareness has lead to increased research and funding, much like the “Head Health Initiative” which was jointly announced by the NFL and GE recently. The four-year, 60 million dollar plan will be used to develop novel imaging technology and other tech-based approaches to aid in the prevention, detection, and management of traumatic brain injury and concussions. The overriding theme of the initiative is “the better we understand the brain, the better we can protect it”.
This comes almost two months after recent studies by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) which researched a large range of sports related concussions, especially those in younger people beginning in grade school through adolescence into early adulthood.
The primary aim of the Head Health Initiative, according to commissioner of the NFL Roger Goodell, is “better diagnosis, treatment and prevention of brain injury”. He admitted that “there is a lot more to do” and that any way to “speed up” the process to “develop new technology to better protect the brain” would be in the best interests of all players– but also younger players in high school, college and those much younger”. He emphasized that this initiative was “not just for football, but for all sports and may also be a way to “make our troops safer”, acknowledging that brain trauma and concussions are not just an issue in the NFL, but for all sports as well as the military.
The four-year plan will be addressed in two parts. The first will involve a 40 million research project led by GE to better diagnose mild traumatic brain injury, and to predict the outcomes over time. The second phase will involve two separate projects, headed by Under Armour, termed the “open innovation challenge”. The first aspect will address diagnosis and prognosis of traumatic brain injury, while the second phase will focus on materials and structural design of equipment to protect the brain from impacts.
This project announcement opened up the eyes of many to realize that brain injury is a very serious issue. A more in depth understanding of the brain will provide better treatments, not only for athletes, but anyone suffering from a concussion or traumatic brain injury.