NFL’s Concussion Carousel in Full Motion Week 1

USA TODAY—September 6, 2014

Another NFL season begins, and the concussion carousel already is spinning.

For all the heightened scrutiny and new measures, deciding when it's right to return to play after a concussion remains a work in progress.

Doctors are focused on identifying issues that may linger even when a player is cleared. There are concerns about potential long-term effects if a player comes back too soon. Researchers are looking into MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) as a potential tool to find "biomarkers" in the brain that could signal that a player needs more recovery time.


Teena Shetty, a neurologist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, is researching use of MRIs to find "biomarkers" that identify what's happening in the brain after a concussion. The research is part of the Head Health Initiative, a collaboration of the NFL and General Electric.

"The problem we have right that we have no objective scientific tool to distinguish how severe a concussion is and how long it's going to take someone to recover," says Shetty.

In the research, MRIs will be done within 72 hours on the brains of concussion victims. More imaging will be done at intervals over three months. They'll be looking at such things as water movement in the brain following concussions.

Shetty says they hope to find biomarkers to "correlate with a more complicated or prolonged recovery."

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