Thursday, October 2, 2014

(Related update 2): The NFL needs to look into this

Related update 2: Apparently PBS's award-winning show Frontline released a report detailing some scary statistics about the prevalence of  chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) among former NFL players.  This excerpt is from Huffington Post's coverage of the Frontline report:
A Shocking report from PBS Frontline says 76 of 79 deceased NFL players suffered from the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).CTE is caused by repeated head trauma, where the functioning of the brain is interrupted and nerve cells begin to die, according to Frontline. It is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.
A recent study of the brain tissue of 128 former football players -- professionals, semi-professionals, college players and high school players -- conducted by one of thenation’s largest brain banks, found 101 players tested positive for CTE. That means 78.9 percent of all the football players and 96.2 percent of the former NFL players in the study suffered from the disease.
If future research continues to find such high levels of CTE among football players,  you can count on two related consequences: first, massive lawsuits; and second, will see some serious calls for serious changes to the nature of the sport as a reaction to the lawsuits. [ht: Hit & Run]

Related update (8/6/14):  Though not actually directly related to the original post below, this recent video by the great folks at Learn Liberty has much of value to add to the growing discussion of the impact of concussions on the game of football in the United States.  It's also an excellent example of two very important, frequently overlooked economic concepts: unintended consequences (in this instance, safer helmets actually leading to more concessions!), and moral hazard.  Spend the few minutes and watch the video:

Original post: A former hockey player who suffered from repeated concussions has a start up company that offers mobile concussion detection and brain scanning services.  Kelly Gee, owner of Quantum Institute,
...hopes it will help athletes and their families better identify brain injuries and track their recovery. Currently, concussions can be identified on the sidelines by physicians and athletic trainers who run through a series of questions like “What’s your name?” and watch for other signs that a player is dazed or disoriented. But these tests can miss some injuries, and not all teams have the budgets to keep medical experts at the ready.
Quantum Institute’s first product is a brain-mapping system based on electroencephalography, or EEG. This test, commonly used to monitor neurological disorders like epilepsy, detects electrical activity in the brain through sensors placed on the scalp. Gee’s company uses quantitative EEG, which includes computer-aided analysis of the wave patterns in the scan.
The article is from the MIT Technology Review, so we're talking about a pretty viable entrepreneurial product and service here.  As the title to this post suggests, the NFL ought to take a look at Gee's product (related: see here).