The NFL continues to focus on concussion prevention through research focused on improving the technology behind football equipment!
Just short of a year ago NFL pledged $100 million USD in support of independent medical research and engineering advancements, a large portion of that money will be awarded to research, more specifically neuroscience.
A Scientific Advisory Board assembled by the NFL, comprised of independent experts, doctors, scientists and clinicians, and chaired by retired U.S. Army General Peter Chiarelli, will provide direction for the $40 million allocated under the league’s initiative.
“Prevention should always be a focus,” Chiarelli says. “Nevertheless, the development of biologically based diagnostics is critical for return-to-play decisions for the NFL, and return to combat/training for the armed forces. Imagine if you had a handheld analyzer that with a single drop could determine whether a player or a soldier had a concussion — and determine the severity of that injury.”
The NFL has an ongoing affiliation with the armed forces, The U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command have partnered on a three-year venture to collaborate on head health research and development.
(Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) also known as CTE can cause depression, memory loss, violent mood swings, cognitive and can even cause behavioral issues in when one is exposed to repetitive head trauma.
“There have been significant learnings in recent years that have changed the way we look at traumatic brain injury, notably CTE,” says Dr. Allen Sills, who came aboard this year as the league’s chief medical officer. “I agree with many medical experts that there are still a lot of unanswered questions relating to the cause, incidence and prevalence of CTE. But what is clear is that there’s a problem that impacts some athletes in sports like ours, others possibly, too, and we are eager to see CTE research move forward and begin to assemble more pieces of the puzzle.
“The NFL has a responsibility to do everything it can to make the game safer and drive research that advances treatment and prevention and, as we make advances, share them with the broader sports world. Most of the issues we face in the NFL are sport issues, and beyond that they are society issues.
In recent years, there have been several law suits that have arose from head trauma due to lack of education when it comes to addressing risks associated with contact sports and concussion injuries. Parents also need to understand what long-term risks their children will face by pursuing a career in professional sports.
The National Football League was also sued by former players who suffered concussions and other head injuries. The NFL settled for $1 billion, and the first two claims under the settlement were announced in June, for a total of $9-million in benefits.
“The Engineering Roadmap,” a $60 million program designed to improve head protection equipment.
“This is a comprehensive and dedicated plan intended to spur innovation and significantly improve head protection for NFL players in three to five years,” explains Dr. Jeffrey Crandall, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Applied Biomechanics and chair of the NFL’s head, neck and spine engineering subcommittee.
“The program is managed in collaboration with NFL Players Association’s engineering consultants, Dr. Kristy Arbogast, co-scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Dr. Barry Myers, director of innovation at Duke University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute”.
“A key component of the engineering roadmap is to accurately measure the motion and acceleration the head experiences during play in the NFL by player position, to give design direction for protective equipment,” Arbogast says. “To date, we have been doing that via video reconstructions and injury event recreations using crash test dummies. These approaches are incredibly time intensive and, by design, focus on ‘events’ that must be subjectively selected from game film or injury reports.”
The vision for the NFL when ready and tested is to offer mouth guards with sensors to players to measure their impact response.
“This athlete exposure data will inform the testing of protective equipment so that future helmet test methodologies and design evolution are relevant to what is actually experienced on the field,” Arbogast says.
“Beyond the outcome of the roadmap,” he says, “we will develop an improved understanding of the types and severity of impacts players experience on-field through video analysis and sensors that will be available to examine a broader array of medical and engineering questions.”
With the proper technology and science, the hope is this will be a milestone not just for football but for several other contact sports –at all levels.