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NFF Board Members Lead the Charge to Find New Insights on Mild Brain Injuries
The National Football Foundation applauds the leadership of GE and the NFL on their latest Brain Injury Research milestone.
Published: 7/29/2015 1:42:00 PM
(Pictured: The NFF highlighted the progress made by GE, led by NFF Board Member Jeff Immelt, and the NFL, led by NFF Board Member Roger Goodell, with their $60 million Head Health Initiative, which was launched in March 2013 to speed diagnosis and improve treatment for mild traumatic brain injury. Above, Immelt and Goodell (back row) can be seen with three of last year's award winners.)

IRVING, Texas (July 29, 2015)
– The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame highlighted today the progress made by GE, led by NFF Board Member Jeff Immelt, and the NFL, led by NFF Board Member Roger Goodell, with their $60 million Head Health Initiative, which was launched in March 2013 to speed diagnosis and improve treatment for mild traumatic brain injury.

“College football, a sport that has been played 147 years, has never been safer,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “In the past decade, the awareness of brain injuries has become of paramount concern to everybody. This is certainly true with football, but the concern transcends all sports and into all walks of life from the military to everyday activities. College football has taken numerous steps to address the issue, and we are proud that two of our board members have taken leadership roles in expanding that knowledge, which will benefit not only football and other sports but our entire society.”

The latest results came July 23 with the announcement of the six final winners of the $10 million Head Health Challenge I, whose innovations are advancing the understanding and diagnosis of mild traumatic brain injury. The winners, who each were among 16 first-round organizations that received $300,000 in initial funding, have been awarded an additional $500,000 each to continue their research. Their breakthrough ideas include: point-of-care blood test to rapidly detect the presence of mild and moderate brain trauma; biomarkers that indicate how the brain reacts following a traumatic brain injury (TBI); and a method to identify which brain areas become disconnected after injury.

“What happened on football fields just has created the character, the foundation of a lot of American competitiveness, which has allowed this country to be successful for so many decades,” said NFF Board Member and GE Chairman & CEO Jeff Immelt, who played college football at Dartmouth. “It is such a beautiful game. It is this massive array of strategy, competitiveness, athleticism that I just think it would be the worst tragedy that I could imagine that if we ever allow anything to change this great game.”

The Head Health Challenge is part of the Head Health Initiative, a four-year, $60 million collaboration between GE and the NFL to speed diagnosis and improve treatment for mild traumatic brain injury. The initiative includes a four-year, $40 million research and development program from the NFL and GE to evaluate and develop next generation imaging technologies to improve diagnosis that would allow for targeting treatment therapy for patients with mild traumatic brain injury.

"We know that in order to secure the future, we can and must do more to make the game safer, and in the process, we will make other sports safer as well," said NFF Board Member and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

In addition to Challenge I, GE and the NFL launched two additional open innovation challenges to invest in research and technology development to better understand, diagnose and protect against brain injury. Challenge II was initiated by GE, the NFL and Under Armour, led by NFF Board Member Kevin Plank, to uncover new innovations and materials that better protect the brain from traumatic injury and new tools for tracking head impacts in real time. GE, the NFL and Under Armour also have partnered with the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to launch Head Health Challenge III, an open innovation competition to promote next generation materials that better absorb or dissipate energy. These new materials could improve the performance of protective equipment for athletes, military personnel and those in dangerous occupations.

Challenge I Final Award Winners and their areas of research and innovation include
:

Banyan Biomarkers, Inc. San Diego, Calif.
- Banyan Biomarkers, Inc. is developing a point-of-care blood test to rapidly detect the presence of mild and moderate brain trauma to improve the medical management of head injured patients. Researchers from Banyan Biomarkers and the University of Florida are collaborating on a sports concussion study to analyze biomarkers, neurocognitive testing, and neuroimaging on student athletes. Banyan Biomarkers expects twenty blood-based markers for head injury will be added to the study in the coming year which will help provide researchers a better understanding of the biochemical pathways that occur in the brain after a concussion and, ultimately, assist to develop treatments to improve clinical outcomes.

BrainScope Company, Inc. Bethesda, Md.
- BrainScope, in collaboration with the Purdue Neurotrauma Group, conducted a study of athletes using both neuroimaging tools as well as BrainScope’s urgent care, handheld, EEG-based traumatic brain injury detection technology. The research supported the utility of the BrainScope markers as a surrogate for neuroimaging and revealed its potential to identify those with increased vulnerability and susceptibility to concussion. BrainScope is developing a concussion assessment system to identify concussed from non-concussed patients and provide a method for assessment of concussed patients over time. This system in development is intended for use by clinicians from initial point-of-care assessment to rehabilitation of head-injured patients.

Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis.
- Using MRI scanning technology, researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin are determining the direct effects of sports-related concussions on brain structure and function. The aim of the study is to advance the discovery of more objective biomarkers to assist in diagnosing concussion, determining when an athlete’s brain has fully recovered, and clinical decision making about the athlete’s fitness to return to play after a concussion.

Quanterix, Lexington, Mass.
- Quanterix has developed a simple blood test to aid in the detection of traumatic brain injury. Using its Simoa technology, Quanterix is able to measure molecular signatures (biomarkers) of brain injury in blood. Quanterix is working to detect and quantify mild to moderate traumatic brain injury almost immediately after the injury has taken place, which will help to better predict the long-term prognosis of individuals who have undergone acute and repetitive injuries. Quanterix’s goal is to provide a blood test that speeds the diagnosis of a concussion in a clinical setting and on the sidelines in a sports arena, therefore improving and accelerating treatment.

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), Santa Barbara, Calif.
- The UCSB Brain Imaging Center, in collaboration with faculty in the computer sciences, is developing statistical methods to detect damage to the deep connections in the brains of patients after a mild head injury. Recent breakthroughs in both MRI scanning and data analysis make it possible to detect subtle brain changes in individual patients after mild concussions. This approach will be tested with clinical data from collaborators using a variety of MRI scanners.

University of Montana, Missoula, Mont.
- Researchers at the University of Montana have identified blood-based biomarkers that indicate how the brain reacts following a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Research over the past year has demonstrated changes in specific plasma microRNAs (micro ribonucleic acids) in TBI patients over a period of several months. The identification and validation of these markers could help with diagnosis and assessing recovery after a head injury as well as testing the effectiveness of new treatments for TBI.


About The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame
Founded in 1947 with early leadership from General Douglas MacArthur, legendary Army coach Earl "Red" Blaik and immortal journalist Grantland Rice, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame is a non-profit educational organization that runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people. With 120 chapters and 12,000 members nationwide, NFF programs include the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame, the NFF Scholar-Athlete Awards presented by Fidelity Investments, the NFF High School Showcases, the NFF Hampshire Honor Society, the NFF Faculty Salutes presented by Fidelity Investments, the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Alumni Association, and scholarships of more than $1.3 million for college and high school scholar-athletes. The NFF also collaborates with the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) to release the FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll; awards The William V. Campbell Trophy presented by Fidelity Investments and prominently showcased at its official home inside the New York Athletic Club; and bestows several other major awards at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner. NFF corporate partners include the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Fidelity Investments, Herff Jones, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, the Sports Business Journal and Under Armour. Learn more at www.footballfoundation.org.
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