The National Football League (NFL) has taken a lot of heat over its alleged lack of safeguards to prevent and mitigate brain injury in its players. A number of former players, suffering from a range of neurological symptoms, have filed lawsuits against the league. Now, the NFL is taking the initiative to advance the science behind the little-understood phenomenon of traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The NFL has partnered with GE to provide $20 million in grants to researchers working to advance the diagnosis and treatment of mild TBI. They recently announced 16 winners in the first stage of the “Head Health Challenge.” Each winner will receive a $300,000 research grant, and up to six more will receive a further $500,000 in 2015.
Over 400 entries from 27 countries were received in the contest. Its stated goal is to improve safety for athletes, military troops and the general public.
Banyan Biomarkers, Inc. of Alachua, Florida is one winner. The company is developing a blood test to rapidly detect mild and moderate brain trauma. Banyan researchers will work with University of Florida athletes to study biomarkers, cognitive testing and neuroimaging on athletes with concussions.
Another winner is the University of California, Santa Barbara. The UCSB Brain Imaging Center is developing computer software to identify individual damaged brain connections using MRI scans.
Accurate diagnosis of TBI remains difficult, treatment even more so. TBI is very common among auto accident victims, and its debilitating effects can last for years.