NFL Officials Discuss TBI

NFL San Francisco 49ers Chairman John York and Jeff Miller, NFL Executive Vice President for Health and Safety, joined a group of scientists from the Department of Energy (DOE) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to hear the latest on Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). They also discussed how high performance computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can and is being used to advance the scientific understanding of TBI.

The NFL has been collaborating with the Department of Defense, NIH, along with the National Institute of Standards and Technology on concussion studies and TBI for several years.

So far, a comprehensive video review of all reported concussions sustained in NFL games taken over the past three seasons, has enabled the league to make data-driven rules changes regarding tackling, kickoffs and punts, and how players practice.

eff Miller reports, “The NFL in partnership with the NFL Players Association has also tested helmet performance by simulating concussion-causing impacts in a laboratory and comparing these impacts against likely on field incidents.”

“The results of the laboratory tests are displayed on a poster shared with NFL to help decide on equipment choices. After issuing last year’s poster, which for the first time included prohibited helmets, approximately 50 percent of NFL players upgraded to a better performing helmet”.

In addition to producing models of existing helmets and exploring materials to advance padding, NFL in the next season will be piloting the use of mouth guards embedded with sensors for players from four NFL teams to measure force, frequency, and direction of impacts.

A group of scientists have identified areas of common interest to study which includes the application of AI, machine learning, and big data analytics to TBI. According to Dimitri Kusnezov, DOE Deputy Undersecretary for Artificial Intelligence & Technology, “If DOE leverages expertise in these areas, the agency could extend the frontiers of their supercomputing and tap into the broader neuroscience community.”

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Director Bill Goldstein told the attendees, “Work related to the “Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in Traumatic Brain Injury” (TRACK-TBI) initiative a public-private partnership, was launched seven years ago with funding for more than $11 million from NINDS within NIH. The TRACK-TBI initiative has led to large calculations performed on maps of brain activity available from MRI databases.

Dr. Geoff Manley, Neurosurgeon at UCSF and Principal Investigator for the TRACK-TBI initiative, discussed how progress is being made. Researchers have collected clinical data on 3,000 patients who were followed for a year subsequent to their TBI injury. Dr. Manley noted that although these study participants are diagnosed with predominantly mild TBI, The TRACK-TBI team is finding that mild TBI is not really mild when analyzed over extended timescales.

TRACK-TBI researchers are involved in a follow-on project where the original study participants will be interviewed and re-evaluated for up to seven years after their initial brain injury to examine how their symptoms have progressed over time. The goal is to more accurately characterize the long term effects of TBI and bring a precision medicine approach to TBI to clinical practices.

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