NIH Assigns Some of NFL’s Donations to Fund Concussion Research Projects

December 21, 2013
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football handoff

football handoff

First published on MedCityNews.com. The National Institutes of Health is putting some of the $30 million the National Football League donated to concussion research last year to work funding studies on how concussion affects the brain and what the potential long-term effects of repeat brain injuries could be.

Although football isn’t the only profession where its players are prone to traumatic brain injury (hockey, the military), it certainly has stirred up the most controversy. In August, the NFL agreed to a $765 million settlement over a lawsuit brought by thousands of former players who accused the league of covering up risks of concussion-related brain injury.

NIH selected eight projects that will comprise a $14 million research initiative by the Sports and Health Research Program — a partnership between NIH, the NFL and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

Two $6 million grants were given to cooperative projects that will bring together researchers from eight universities to compare the brain tissues of donors who were at both high and low risk for developing long-term damage from TBI. Currently, concussions can’t be reliably identified, and there’s also no way of predicting who will develop brain degeneration and who will recover quickly.

“The investigators will collaborate to develop diagnostic criteria for identifying the chronic features of the entire scope of brain trauma ranging from mild TBI to full-blown CTE, and then work to extend these criteria to living humans using some of the most advanced neuroimaging tools available,” Dr. Walter Koroshetz, deputy director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said in a statement.

They’ll also help NIH develop a registry in which it will enroll people who experience TBI and want to donate brain or spinal cord tissue for research after their death.

Six more grants totaling $2 million will fund early stage pilot projects that could eventually become the foundations of more comprehensive projects. They’ll focus on using apps, eye movement, imaging biomarkers, and other techniques for improving diagnostics of concussion and establishing ways to track a person’s recovery.

See the full list of grantees here.

[Image credit: Flickr user Ted Kerwin]