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The National Football League is taking a step to protect its athletes by donating $30 million dollars for federal brain injury research.
It’s the NFL’s largest donation to date and will benefit the National Institutes of Health (NIH) just as the football season kicks off.
The NIH said it is too early to know how the money will be distributed or if it will benefit any of the handfuls of brain research centers here in San Diego. The grants are typically distributed in a grant system.
The UCSD Department of Radiology has received funding from NFL charities in the past to research brain injuries in high school and college athletes. If they receive another grant, it will continue to help the team with their ongoing research.
“Football is a great game but we have to protect the players. It’s important to learn more about brain injuries and make a diagnosis like when it’s safe to go back to play,” said Dr. Roland R. Lee, Professor of Radiology in Residence.
The research money donated will also be used to benefit soldiers who come back from overseas with head injuries. In San Diego, this could benefit about 20 percent of veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The military have a high risk because of their job in combat situations and dealing with explosive devices. We have more vets coming in with these concerns,” said Amy Jack, Neuropsychologist for the VA Medical Center.
Researchers in San Diego say there is still much more research that needs to be done on brain injuries but this large donation by the NFL will make a big difference.
“A lot of people have concussions but for people in the NFL and veterans from war, how many concussions are too much? We need to learn how many concussions it takes to make it difficult to return back to normal,” said Jack.
“The brain is the most important organ. We know these players may have other injuries but the most important concern is the brain,” said Lee.
Nearly 3,400 former players have already sued the league over concussions, according to an Associated Press analysis of the lawsuits.