-- Robert Preidt
MONDAY, Dec. 16, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. National
Institutes of Health is teaming up with the National Football
League on research into the long-term effects of repeated head
injuries and improving concussion diagnosis.
The projects will be supported largely through a $30 million
donation made last year to the Foundation for the National
Institutes of Health by the NFL, which is wrestling with the issue
of concussions and their impact on current and former players.
There's growing concern about the potential long-term effects of
repeated concussions, particularly among those most at risk,
including football players and other athletes and members of the
Current tests can't reliably diagnosis concussion. And there's
no way to predict which patients will recover quickly, suffer
long-term symptoms or develop a progressive brain disease called
chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), according to an NIH press
statement released Monday.
"We need to be able to predict which patterns of injury are rapidly reversible and which are not. This program will help researchers get closer to answering some of the important questions about concussion for our youth who play sports and their parents," Story Landis, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), said in the news release.
Two of the projects will receive $6 million each and will focus
on determining the extent of long-term changes that occur in the
brain years after a head injury or after numerous concussions. They
will involve researchers from NINDS, the National Institute of
Child Health and Human Development and academic medical
One of the projects will attempt to define a clear set of
criteria for various stages of CTE. It will also seek to
distinguish it from Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) and other degenerative brain
diseases that as of now can only be determined in brain tissue
samples collected after death. The objective is to find medical
signs of CTE that might eventually be used to diagnose the illness
in living people.
The other project will seek to identify the long-term effects of
mild, moderate and severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) and compare
them with features of CTE. The goal is to identify signs that could
be used to diagnose brain degeneration linked to traumatic brain
injury in patients.
While the two projects focus on different aspects of traumatic
brain injury, "their combined results promise to answer critical
questions about the chronic effects of single versus repetitive
injuries on the brain, how repetitive TBI (traumatic brain injury)
might lead to CTE, how commonly these changes occur in an adult
population, and how CTE relates to neurodegenerative disorders like
Alzheimer's disease," Landis said.
Six other pilot projects will receive a total of just over $2
million and last up to two years. They will concentrate on
improving the diagnosis of concussions and identifying potential
medical signs that can be used to assess a patient's recovery. If
the early results are promising, these projects may form the basis
of more extensive research, the news release said.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
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