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Since 2010, David Brody, MD, a Washington University neurologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, has headed one of seven national groups that provide clinical care to retired professional football players. A new project funded by NFL Charities, the charitable foundation of National Football League owners, will allow him to study the brain following repeat concussions. The research team will use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure damage in the brain’s white matter after repetitive concussive brain injury.

Last year, Brody’s group published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine describing how they were able to use the same imaging method to analyze neurological function of United States military personnel who had suffered blast-related injuries in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“There are a number of differences between blast-related injuries and repetitive sports-related concussions,” Brody says. “So it will be critical to validate the MRI method in a model of repetitive concussion to help us understand the meaning of any findings we may observe in human patients.” Other institutions receiving NFL Charities grants include Columbia University, The Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Yale University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Studies at those centers will focus heavily on damage from concussions but also will look at the effects of helmet, face-mask and shoulder-pad designs on airway and cardiovascular care and a sleep apnea program that focuses on NFL players.

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