U.S. to spend $14 million on concussion research, using NFL funds

Mon Dec 16, 2013 2:59pm EST
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By Carey Gillam

(Reuters) - U.S. researchers on Monday unveiled a $14 million series of research projects aimed at diagnosing and treating brain injuries in football players and others who have suffered multiple head injuries or concussions.

The projects, partly funded by the National Football League, are aimed at chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a condition linked to the loss of decision-making control, aggression and dementia. The condition is tied to repeated hits to the head, such as those experienced by football players, hockey players and boxers.

The condition currently can be diagnosed only by examining a person's brain after their death. But researchers with the National Institutes of Health aim to develop tests to detect and treat CTE while the patient is alive.

"This is a public health problem," said Walter Koroshetz, deputy director of the NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "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."

The NFL in August agreed to pay up to $765 million to settle a lawsuit brought by thousands of former players, many suffering from dementia and other health problems, who accused the league of covering up the risks of brain injury.

The league is paying $12 million of the allocated $14 million in research, the rest of which will be funded by the NIH. The $14 million comes from $30 million in research funding the NFL made available to the NIH in 2012.

The research is not focused just on football players, but any people who engage in activities in which they suffered head injury.

Researchers say they also hope to better understand the potential relationship between traumatic brain injury and late-life neurodegenerative disorders, especially Alzheimer's disease.   Continued...

The NFL logo and set are seen at New York's Radio City Music Hall before the start of the 2013 NFL Draft April 25, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton