Earlier this week we talked about the increase of public awareness regarding brain injuries and concussions. The experiences of NFL players and returning military soldiers have created an important dialogue in the media and among the public. Now the NFL has made traumatic brain injury and concussion research a financial priority as well.

The National Football League's charitable foundation recently gave large grants to organizations doing sports-related medical research. More than a million dollars has been given to study the prevention and treatment of concussions.

The NFL charity has also just given a $100,000 grant to expand an important study being conducted at UC San Diego. The study has been ongoing for the last four years and was originally funded by several groups, including the U.S. Navy. This study promises big advances in our ability to detect brain injuries.

Our current medical imaging devices such as CT scans and MRIs are not able to detect brain injuries. The researchers at UC San Diego have developed a new imaging technique called Magnetoencephalography (MEG). These MEG scans measure the speed of our brain waves. When they are too slow, there is evidence of a brain injury.

When brain waves are slower, the brain must work much harder to perform normal thinking tasks. The MEG scan will be useful in determining how hard the brain is working at various times, which predicts the level of injury. An initial scan will be used to diagnose a brain injury, and then periodic follow-up scans will be able to track the recovery process.

This new technology presents one of the most important advances in this branch of medical research. Doctors now have an objective way to detect traumatic brain injuries and concussions, as well as a way to help heal them. Thanks to increased public awareness and generous funding, brain injury research continues to improve lives.

Source: signonsandiego.com, "UCSD gets NFL grant to study brain injuries" Janet Lavelle, 21 December 2010