NFL sponsors new research on sports-related concussions


December 17, 2013

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After sustaining a concussion, people may realize they have difficulty focusing. While some doctors may claim it is temporary, recent research suggests it is not.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health will begin working on a new series of studies focused on the treatment of sports-related brain injuries, Reuters reported. The research, which is partly sponsored by the National Football League, will mostly target professional football players, ice hockey players and boxers who have sustained multiple head injuries throughout their sports careers.

NIH researchers will use the newly allocated $14 million funding -  $12 million of which was donated by the NFL - to explore the link between multiple concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. The illness can lead to various cognitive impairments, such as dementia and aggression. According to a 2012 report from the NIH, the condition can only be diagnosed from studying a patient's brain post-mortem. However, researchers told the news source that they're hoping to develop ways to diagnose and treat CTE while the patient is still alive. 

"This is a public health problem," Walter Koroshetz, deputy director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, told the news source. "We don't know the mechanics of the head injuries that lead to this, the number and severity that is required to get this. We don't know whether certain people based on their genes are more susceptible or not. There are a lot of questions to be answered."

Additional studies will also focus on the relationship between brain injuries and Alzheimer's disease, as well as the possible long-term effects from sustaining multiple concussions and the effects concussions have on adolescent athletes. 

Concussions are one of the most common sports injuries, especially among football players. The NFL began implementing more health initiatives aimed at preventing head injuries after 4,500 former players sued the league for concealing the long-lasting medical risks of concussions, NFL.com reported. The professional football league reached a $765 million settlement with the retired players, most of whom had cognitive impairments related to head injuries, last August. 


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