Concussions: Retired NFLers, Head Injury Patients May Benefit from New Brain Health Initiatives

A Syracuse, New York-based biosciences company bringing its innovative brain assessments to North Texas is just one example of the latest brain health initiatives in the area especially focused on the lasting consequences of concussions.

BrainHealth iStock

The lasting consequences of concussions is one of the most talked-about and researched subjects in medicine and sports today, with initiatives underway in North Texas and across the nation to better diagnose concussions and treat their effects.

In North Texas, such places at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Texas Institute for Brain Injury and Repair and the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas have been in the vanguard of concussion research and treatment for over a decade.

And now, a Syracuse, New York-based biosciences company is bringing innovative partnerships to North Texas that could benefit retired NFL players and regular foks alike.

The issue of brain injuries was put in a national spotlight in 2012 when 4,500 retired NFL players and the families of deceased players filed a lawsuit against the league claiming it knew about the serious impact repeat concussions had on the brain health of the players and didn’t take proper steps to prevent or mitigate those effects, or to help affected players.

A nearly $1 billion settlement in the lawsuit went into effect on Jan. 7, 2017.

“I said, ‘Something is not right. I don’t know what it is, but something is right.”

Tony Dorsett 

One of the players in the lawsuit was Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett, who has talked openly about the memory loss and sudden bursts of anger he was dealing with since retiring from professional football — including his detailed interview in 2014 with D Magazine.

Dorsett, 64, was diagnosed in 2013 with signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain condition associated with repeated head trauma that can lead to dementia and depression. 

“I said, ‘Something is not right. I don’t know what it is, but something is right.’ And, finally, when I was diagnosed, it all made sense. It all came together,” Dorsett told D Magazine.

Another former Cowboy, All-Pro defensive end George Andrie, is among the nearly 2,300 retired players or family members who have filed claims under the settlement. The 78-year-old Andrie played with the Cowboys from 1962 to 1972.

In March, the HOF Players Foundation established by members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Syracuse-based Quadrant Biosciences Inc. announced a partnership to monitor the brain health of retired NFL players using unique tools developed by Quadrant.

In the partnership, Quadrant will assemble a group of health-care professionals and researchers to monitor the players’ progress and document proposed treatments, diet plans, and results.

NEW TOOLS CAN HELP ASSESS CONCUSSIONS IN PATIENTS

The assessments will be done using The ClearEdge Brain Health Toolkit, developed by Quadrant in cooperation with researchers and clinicians at SUNY Upstate Medical University. Clinicians in the retired players’ own communities will meet regularly with them to monitor health, provide therapeutic options, perform ClearEdge assessments, and explain the results and progress, according to Quadrant.

Also, Quadrant will collect saliva samples as part of innovative research into epigenetic biomarkers for brain health disorders.

In June, Quadrant announced another partnership, this one with ChoiceOne/MedSpring, a provider of urgent care facilities, that will make ClearEdge available to patients at select ChoiceOne/MedSpring centers in Dallas-Fort Worth and in Baltimore, Maryland.

ChoiceOne/MedSpring will offer ClearEdge assessments for patients seeking to establish baseline measures of their brain health, or who have recently experienced a head injury. The company said that the initial ClearEdge assessment will be helpful as a point of comparison to track patients’ brain health over time and, in the case of an injury such as a concussion, to help assess the patient’s recovery.

More information about the program in DFW can be gleaned from the MedSpring website.

DFW RESEARCHERS WORK ON CONCUSSION TREATMENTS

The Quadrant and the Hall of Fame programs are indicative of the emphasis on brain health for athletes and non-athletes alike.

In 2016, the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UT Southwestern and the University Interscholastic League announced the creation of the Texas Sports Concussion Registry to help advance the studies of traumatic brain injuries among student athletes through documenting and tracking concussion incidences, examining injury characteristics, and identifying risk factors among school-age athletes.

Researchers at the Brain Performance Institute of the Center for BrainHealth have developed programs to unlock the brain potential for a wide variety of individuals — from middle schoolers and athletes to military veterans and individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. You can get a look inside the innovative Brain Performance Institute here.

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