NFL meddling in NIH researcher selection?

This is a timely topic since there are some important football games today and it’s almost the superbowl. Last year the NFL donated $30million to the NIH for brain research on the impacts of football. Very necessary since a) there’s a lot of evidence linking brain injury to football and b) the league has been under scrutiny lately because of this. However, it seems as though the NFL may be trying to influence the type of research being conducted. ESPN reports:

Three of the NFL’s top health and safety officers confronted the National Institutes of Health last June after the NIH selected a Boston University researcher to lead a major study on football and brain disease, Outside the Lines has learned.

The new information contradicts denials by the NFL and a foundation it partners with that the league had any involvement or input in the fate of a $16 million study to find methods to diagnose — in living patients — chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease found in dozens of deceased NFL players.

Outside the Lines reported in December that the NFL, which in 2012 promised an “unrestricted” $30 million gift to the NIH for brain research, backed out of funding the new study over concerns about the lead researcher, Boston University’s Dr. Robert Stern, who has been critical of the league. In the story, a senior NIH official said that the NFL retained veto power over projects it might fund with its donation, and it effectively used that power in the Stern study. Almost immediately, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy deemed the report “inaccurate.” The league and the foundation both said the league’s overall donation comes with no strings attached.

But Dr. Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, told Outside the Lines this week that the NFL raised several concerns about Stern’s selection during a June conference call that included Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety; Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, co-chairman of the Head, Neck and Spine Committee; and Dr. Mitch Berger, chairman of the sub-committee on the long-term effects of brain and spine injury.

The NFL alleged that the review process that led to Stern’s selection was marred by conflicts of interest, Koroshetz said. In addition, league officials charged that Stern was biased because he had filed an affidavit opposing the settlement of a lawsuit in which thousands of former players accused the NFL of hiding the link between football and brain damage.

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World Cup and Concussions

The USA vs GER game was indeed a nail-biter, but also quite the head-basher as well.  Clint Dempsey with another jab to the face, and Jermaine Jones bonking heads… definitely cringeworthy.  

There’s been a lot of news lately about head injuries in sports such as football.  But the other football, or soccer, needs to take this issue seriously too.  

We mentioned this in a previous post, and a nice article by The Washington Post details the extent of head injuries in soccer and what must be done about it.   Specifically, FIFA needs to take this issue more seriously!

“It’s barbaric. The way FIFA has turned an eye to head injuries, it’s 1950s-ish,” said ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman, the former University of Maryland and MLS star whose career was cut short due to concussions. “It’s just mind-boggling. . . . FIFA acts like it doesn’t exist.”

also

A handful of star players, such as Twellman and former D.C. United star Alecko Eskandarian, have had promising careers cut short by head injuries”

This is a real issue y’all.  A lot of head injuries lead to mental illness, neurological disorders, and sometimes death.  I’m a huge fan of soccer…but I’d rather see Jones and others sit out for a game to recover from head injury then to continue playing and potentially risk their health and lives.  It’s time to start acting on it, FIFA.

Brain abnormalities in players that ‘head’ the ball #WorldCupReminder

 headerreal

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is a good time to remind people that any impact to your head, including headers in soccer, can cause brain changes and abnormalities. This 2013 study in Radiology, showed brain changes by MRI in players that head the ball more.

RESULTS:

Participants had headed 32-5400 times (median, 432 times) over the previous year. Heading was associated with lower FA at three locations in temporo-occipital white matter with a threshold that varied according to location (885-1550 headings per year) (P < .00001). Lower levels of FA were also associated with poorer memory scores (P < .00001), with a threshold of 1800 headings per year. Lifetime concussion history and demographic features were not significantly associated with either FA or cognitive performance.

CONCLUSION:

Heading is associated with abnormal white matter microstructure and with poorer neurocognitive performance. This relationship is not explained by a history of concussion.

 

Science of FIFA World Cup soccer balls

soccer

Scientific Reports this month includes a timely article on the aerodynamics of different types of soccer balls, “Effect of panel shape of soccer ball on its flight characteristics.” The study included a kick robot that uniformly kicked each of the balls. Thought all soccer balls were the same? think again, “Soccer balls are typically constructed from 32 pentagonal and hexagonal panels. Recently, however, newer balls named Cafusa, Teamgeist 2, and Jabulani were respectively produced from 32, 14, and 8 panels with shapes and designs dramatically different from those of conventional balls. The newest type of ball, named Brazuca, was produced from six panels and will be used in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.”

News article for those without access to Scientific Reports.