Head protection plays a vital role in the health and safety of any athlete participating in helmeted sports. In a move that could help revolutionize football player safety, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), and Easton-Bell Sports through its Riddell brand, announced today it would work together on a study designed to advance athlete concussion detection and treatment. Information gathered through the study will also be used to develop new football headgear and further refine updates to player monitoring technology.
“TGen welcomes this remarkable opportunity to join Riddell in a major research study with the goal of helping to objectively monitor a player on the field (with microelectronics combined with nucleic acid sequencing),” said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director. “TGen’s work over the past several years in the area of head trauma is accelerating new insights to the critical study of concussion injury.”
The genesis of this potentially groundbreaking study is to merge a player’s genetic information with real-time microelectronic information captured by Riddell’s Sideline Response System (SRS). A highly sophisticated, data-intensive system, Riddell SRS provides researchers, athletic staff and players with a wide range of valuable information on the number and severity of head impacts a player receives during games and practices. Employed since 2003 by several well-respected research institutions, Riddell SRS has captured 1.8 million impacts from youth to elite football competition, and its data has led to impactful changes to rules, how the game is played and coached, and has informed new helmet designs.
“As the industry leader in football head protection, Riddell has the unique opportunity to advance TGen’s groundbreaking medical research into the brain as we work together towards identifying a way to accurately and quickly diagnose concussions in football players,” said Dan Arment, President of Riddell. “With Riddell’s commitment to player protection and history of innovation, we are hopeful that our collaboration with TGen will help us better protect athletes and lead us to meaningful advancements in helmet technology that move the game of football forward.”
A key question the study seeks to answer is: are the effects of sub-concussive hits identifiable through blood-based molecular information? “Based on our current information, we believe this study will have the unique ability to provide a molecular ‘risk’ and ‘recovery’ score, enabling physicians to better identify when a player might be expected to recover from the effects of the concussion and get back on the field,” said Dr. Kendall Van Keuren-Jensen, TGen Assistant Professor, whose technique for studying molecular information at a micro level will drive the research.
While the joint study will begin with football, the Riddell-TGen partnership has the potential to improve sports equipment manufactured by brands in the broader Easton-Bell Sports portfolio, including headgear for hockey, baseball, cycling, snowsports, and powersports. “As the awareness of head injury grows across all sports, supporting science like this will help us offer a more protective helmet solution to the athlete,” said Arment.
Local Institutes and Advocate to Join Study
As part of the study, TGen will work with the Barrow Neurological Institute whose B.R.A.I.N.S. (Barrow Resource for Acquired Injury to the Nervous System) program treats patients who have sustained a traumatic brain or spinal cord injury.
“Combining our neurological expertise and the information from our B.R.A.I.N.S. program, with TGen’s genomic knowledge and Riddell’s helmet technology, will provide great insight into how we measure concussions and how they affect the human brain,” said Dr. Javier Cárdenas, a neurologist and brain injury expert with Barrow Neurological Institute. “The genomic data could aid in the treatment process and will greatly add to the growing body of knowledge we’re acquiring about head injury patients.”
Joining Barrow will be athletic trainers from A.T. Still University and SAFE Football, which teaches alternative game-play techniques that reduce the number of head impacts while increasing competitiveness.
“Our partnerships with Barrow Neurological Institute, A.T. Still University, and Safe Football provide a multifaceted approach to identifying athletes in need of medical attention, to educating athletes on concussion and brain injury, to reducing the risk of injury through development of better techniques, and to improving treatment outcomes,” said Dr. Matt Huentelman, TGen Associate Professor and a co-investigator on the study.