Purdue professor joins $60M NFL concussion study

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A Purdue professor will be part of a $60 million effort to find and prevent head injuries and concussions.

The NFL, GE and Under Armour are behind the new Head Health Challenge, which will fund research for new imaging techniques and increase competition for technology that might help diagnose or prevent head injuries both on and off the playing field.

Larry Leverenz, the director of the Athletic Training program at Purdue, is part of the expert panel selected by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Leverenz and others will oversee the four-year study and research challenge.

“It’s going to help a tremendous amount,” Leverenz said.

Leverenz has helped Purdue University gain national attention on the topic of football-related head injuries. He teamed with Purdue engineers in order to conduct cognitive testing and MRI scans on football players as they took hits throughout the season. The results revealed a significant change in brain activity as the number of hits increased throughout the year, even in players who weren’t diagnosed with concussions.

The NFL is now teaming with GE and Under Armour to drive more research. The Head Health Challenge will feature a $40 million research program to develop new brain imaging techniques. There will also be a $20 million Innovation Challenge open to all, in hopes of finding new Diagnosis and Prevention Technology.

“One of the things that we’ve struggled with all along is how do you bring the technology that we’re using, the things that we’re finding, and how do you take that to the sideline,” Leverenz said.

Purdue researchers will likely apply to part of the challenge in some way, Leverenz said, but either way he says he’s excited to play a role in furthering safety efforts on a topic that impacts many people.

“The stat is that every 20 seconds someone in the US suffers a mild traumatic brain injury of some sort,” Leverenz said. “That includes the military as well as people in household accidents, automobile accidents, so we’re not just talking football, we’re talking the public in general. Anything we can do to bring that new technology to the whole nation, using football as our laboratory, will certainly help.”

More information on the Head Health Challenge is available online.

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