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GE, NFL, Under Armour Unveil Plans For Head Health Initiative

GE, NFL, Under Armour Unveil Plans For Head Health Initiative

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Immelt (l) and Goodell (r) will offer $20M to bidders for research
GE, the NFL and Under Armour yesterday jointly unveiled plans for $60M of research into concussion prevention and diagnostic research called the Head Health Initiative. Speakers at the press conference in N.Y. included GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, UA Founder, President & CEO Kevin Plank and NCAA President Mark Emmert. Among those in attendance were Patriots Owner Robert Kraft and Giants President & CEO John Mara. Speaking afterward, Jets Owner Woody Johnson underscored the point of the research, saying, “We know a lot more about the heart and the other organs, we know very little about the brain, so trying to get objective data” is a start. The research dollars are designed to speed evaluation and develop next generation imaging technologies to improve diagnosis that targets treatment therapy for patients with mild traumatic brain injury. That part of the project will get $40M. In addition, the NFL, GE and UA launched a two-year innovation challenge, offering up to $20M to bidders to research, better understand, diagnose and protect against mild traumatic brain injury. This element of the project has its own website, NFLGEbrainresearch.com (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer). On Long Island, Bob Glauber notes the venture “also is aimed at helping military personnel cope better with problems associated with traumatic brain injury” (NEWSDAY, 3/12).

PROGRESSIVE THINKING: Goodell said, "In talking to the medical experts over several years, I think there's a predisposition to most injuries, particularly to the brain, or to brain disease. So we do want to know what those biomarkers are." The AP’s Howard Fendrich noted Goodell “also envisions players being required -- with the union's OK, of course -- to wear helmets containing sensors to detect hits that cause concussions.” He said those helmets might be lighter and "less of a weapon" than today's. Goodell “agreed about the importance of quick progress.” He said, "We weren't looking at a long timetable. We wanted to see results quickly." Kraft is “pleased to see these kinds of projects now.” Kraft said, "I wish it had happened sooner. The evolution, the issue has been coming to the forefront and ... a lot of times we didn't talk about it, or talk about it enough. But we need to talk about it and do something about it” (AP, 3/11).

LONG TIME COMING: In N.Y., Michael O’Keeffe writes the announcement is “an attempt to roll back years of bad press for the NFL, which faces a class action suit on behalf of 4,000 retired players who say the league covered up the long-term dangers of brain injuries for too many years.” The NFL may be the “most popular professional sport” in the U.S., but its future is “uncertain as increasing numbers of schools and parents wonder if football's dangers and cost are worth it” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/12). CNBC's Mary Thompson said, “For the NFL, all of this is part of an about face that began back in 2009. ... It's a change of heart spurned by research and lawsuits filed by former players and their families alleging negligence by the league.” CNBC contributor and former NFLer Pete Najarian said the “problem” in football was the “diagnosis process” for concussions. Najarian called the collaboration between the NFL, GE and UA an "absolutely outstanding idea” (“Power Lunch,” CNBC, 3/11).