March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The national consciousness of the magnitude of this issue was raised by the last two wars, and has spurred development of new therapies and treatments for TBIs. At the same time, high profile sports figures have been in the news with stories of delayed/long term disabilities, and even fatalities, resulting from concussive injuries. This has forced many athletic leagues to look to improve their on field response to such injuries, with the National Football League leading the charge. On January 23, 2014, the NFL, in partnership with GE, announced the 16 winners of their $20 million “Head Health Challenges”. Over 400 entrants from over 25 countries applied for these grants, with each winner receiving $300,000 to support their initiatives. Most of the projects fall into two categories: diagnostics ( blood tests and imaging techniques) and brain functionality. Below are a few of the more interesting lines of pursuit:
Banyan Biomarkers, Inc. and Quanterix: The former is developing a blood test for mild to moderate brain injury that will be the first of its kind; while the latter, is developing one for more traumatic injury. Both are set to speed diagnosis and improve treatment at the point of injury and care.
BrainScope Company Inc., Cortical Metrics, LLC and University of Notre Dame: BrainScope is studying ways to adapt its hand-held EEG system for field use. Cortical’s mouse-like device vibrates fingertips which stimulates activity in adjacent areas of the brain. A computer program measures communication levels between these areas. Notre Dame is developing a mobile app test for concussions which recognizes changes in speech acoustics.
Johns Hopkins Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical College: Both institutes are using positron emission tomography (PET), a molecular brain imaging scan, to study biomarkers in professional athletes who have suffered brain injury. The goal is to determine the link between changes in these biomarkers and late onset depression and memory loss resulting from repeated head injury.
3.8 million Americans are said to suffer a sports-related concussion/brain injury each year, but only half are reported. That dire statistic makes innovative research and development even more imperative. Those who are on the frontlines in the treatment of the injured have a vested interest as well. If you are a rehab professional specializing in brain injured patients or interested in the field call the Centra Team at 800 535 0076 or download our mobile app for great employment opportunities in this field.