As the country prepares for the Broncos and Seahawks to go head to head the NFL is working with scientists and bio-engineers to protect players under their helmets. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
Football remains America's favorite pastime, but as the science surrounding brain injuries advances, concern has been growing over the long term damage caused by multiple concussions.
"What we now have to clarify is the significance of mild traumatic brain injury as it relates to multiple events and how it could affect your long term development," says Dr. Philip E. Stieg, Weill Cornell Medical College's Chief of Neurosurgery.
With the public demanding stronger protection for players, and parents wary of allowing their kids to continue the tradition the NFL and General Electric launched an initiative, the Head Health Challenges, to help advance understanding of traumatic brain injury and improve diagnostic tools.
"Not only are we going to get better at the diagnosis, but we're going to make a difference in the prognosis and the treatment. And people are going to get better," says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodall.
Ahead of the Super Bowl, and while currently entangled in a head injury lawsuit with former players, the NFL announced 16 winners in the first round of its challenge. One winner of the $300,000 prize is Brainscope, creators of a portable device that measures electrical brain activity.
"Our focus is what is the impact to the brain right then and there right after an impact of major proportions happens, does that person have a traumatic brain injury or do they not," says Brainscope CEO Michael Singer.
Still years from use, the ultimate goal would be to help clinicians pinpoint immediately what kind of care the player needs. Weill Cornell Medical College was also awarded for their work aimed at finding ways to better visualize, with imaging technology, the severity of a concussion.
"In mild traumatic brain injury there is no changes on CAT scans and variable changes on the MRI Scan and with that limited data we can’t tell you if you come into me with a head bonk how bad it's going to be and how long you're going to be laid up," says Dr. Stieg.
For now, experts say players and parents of young athletes should be well versed on how to avoid getting hurt and when hurt, leave time to recover.
"Putting an individual back into whether it's emotional, intellectual or physical stress too soon can slow down the recovery process," says Dr. Stieg.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/youth.html.