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NFL Health Update: NIH provides grants for concussion research



The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced on Monday the selection of eight research projects that will receive funding from the Sports and Health Research Program (SHRP) - a partnership of the NIH, the NFL, and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH). The NFL has committed $30 million for medical research to the FNIH to support the program and its research on brain injury among athletes, military veterans and the general public.

The first projects selected to receive funding will address some of the key issues related to traumatic brain injury (TBI), including the long-term effects of repeated head injuries and how to improve methods for diagnosing concussions. In addition, two groups have been selected to work with the NIH to create a registry of people who have a history of TBI and are interested in donating brain and spinal cord tissue to the NIH Neurobiobank for study after death.

The projects to receive funding are:

  • Cortical GABA in Pediatric Sports Concussion

Principal Investigator: Jeffrey G. Ojemann, M.D., Seattle Children's Hospital

  • Evaluation of Spot Light: A Concussion Injury Management App for Youth Sports

Principal Investigators: Lara McKenzie, Ph.D., M.A., Center for Injury Research and Policy, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital; and Dawn Comstock, Ph.D., Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado

  • Eye Movement Dynamics: A Rapid Objective Involuntary Measure of Concussion/Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Principal Investigators: Nicholas Port, Ph.D. and Steven Hitzeman, O.D., Indiana University School of Optometry

  • Imaging and Biomarkers in Adolescents Cleared for Return to Play After Concussion

Principal Investigator: Harvey Levin, Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine

  • Somatosensory Processing -- Assessing Youth Sport-Related Concussion and Recovery

Principal Investigator: Stacy Jennifer Marcus Suskauer, M.D., Kennedy Krieger Institute

  • Characterization of the Brain and Serum Metabolome in Mouse Models of Concussion

Principal Investigator: Michael J. Whalen, M.D., Massachusetts General Hospital

Two programs will receive funding from the SHRP to study the chronic effects of neurotrauma in brain tissue and to develop a means of imaging these effects for future use in individuals at risk. They will also work with the NIH Neurobiobank to develop the TBI tissue registry:

  • CTE and Post-traumatic Neurodegeneration: Neuropathology and Ex Vivo Imaging

Principal Investigator: Ann C. McKee, M.D., Boston University School of Medicine and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

  • Neuropathology of CTE and Delayed Effects of TBI: Toward In Vivo Diagnostics

Principal Investigator: Wayne Gordon, Ph.D., Mount Sinai Hospital (New York)

For more information about the projects, please visit:


The U.S. Army has released a PSA featuring Commissioner Roger Goodell and Army Surgeon General LTG Patricia Horoho regarding the Army-NFL partnership in the prevention, treatment and diagnosis of traumatic brain injury. The PSA, which airs across all Department of Defense networks including the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Network, notes the cultural similarities between the military and the NFL. It also reinforces the need for both individual responsibility and concern for teammates by encouraging help-seeking behaviors.

The NFL continues to work with the Army to advance its TBI partnership through sharing of medical information. Culture change with respect to head injuries remains at the forefront of both organizations.

The PSA can be accessed here.


With their first season of Heads Up Football complete, the 103 former NFL players serving as Heads Up Football Ambassadors to youth leagues nationwide are reflecting on lessons learned and the techniques they demonstrated to young football players.

Former Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers player Jeff Hartings spoke about his commitment to Heads Up:

"I wanted to be involved in the program because I believe that it is more important than ever for our culture to understand that the benefits for most young boys of being involved in a team sport like football far outweigh the possible negative effects," said Hartings. "The character I and many others have developed from playing football have helped us become responsible citizens willing to sacrifice our own desires to help others--just like we did while playing for a football team."

-- National Institutes of Health

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