NIH Awards Funds from NFL Donation to Kennedy Krieger for New Concussion Research Study

December 16, 2013

Baltimore, Md. – The National Institutes of Health announced today that a research study at Kennedy Krieger Institute is among eight projects to receive financial support to answer some of the most fundamental problems on traumatic brain injury. Under the direction of principal investigator Stacy Suskauer, M.D., Director of the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program at Kennedy Krieger, this new research study will focus on assessing youth sport-related concussion and recovery using somatosensory processing.

Funding is provided by the Sports and Health Research Program, a partnership among the NIH, the National Football League, and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH). In 2012, the NFL donated $30 million to FNIH for research studies on injuries affecting athletes, with brain trauma being the primary area of focus.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major public health problem that affects all age groups and is the leading cause of death in young adults. Recently, concern has been raised about the potential long-term effects of repeated concussion, particularly in those most at risk: young athletes and those engaged in professions associated with frequent head injury, including men and women in the military. Current tests cannot reliably identify concussions, and there is no way to predict who will recover quickly, who will suffer long-term symptoms, and which few individuals will develop progressive brain degeneration, called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

The somatosensory system provides information about our environment — for example, what an object feels like to the touch — and may be affected by brain injury. Dr. Suskauer and her colleagues will investigate whether somatosensory system information processing (SSIP) could be used as a biomarker for concussion and recovery in youth aged 13-17. For these experiments, the researchers will use a new portable device that delivers vibrations to fingertips. Perception of the vibrations reflects activity of sensory neurons in the brain, thereby providing a measure of SSIP. The researchers will also investigate whether changes in SSIP are related to differences in certain brain chemicals after head injury.

About the Kennedy Krieger Institute

Internationally recognized for improving the lives of children and adolescents with disorders and injuries of the brain and spinal cord, the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD, serves more than 20,000 individuals each year through inpatient and outpatient clinics, home and community services and school-based programs. Kennedy Krieger provides a wide range of services for children with developmental concerns mild to severe, and is home to a team of investigators who are contributing to the understanding of how disorders develop while pioneering new interventions and earlier diagnosis. For more information on the Kennedy Krieger Institute, visit www.kennedykrieger.org.

Contact:

Jennifer Burke
(443) 923-7329
burkej@kennedykrieger.org