The $765 million settlement over the concussion litigation brought by former players must seem like a distant memory to the National Football League.
The league recently highlighted The Head Health Initiative, a four-year, $60 million collaboration to speed diagnosis and improve treatment for mild traumatic brain injury. The initiative was created with GE and is also supported by Under Armour. The NFL recently posed some questions to Sue Siegel, CEO GE Ventures, about the importance of the initiative and “GE’s commitment to medical research.”
Why was it important that GE work with the NFL on advancing the science around diagnosing and treating head injuries? How did the idea come together?
“At GE we pride ourselves on working with our partners to take on the toughest challenges. And few things are more important than getting smarter about the human brain. The brain is the most complex structure in the world. But what we have learned to date represents only a tiny fraction of the possibilities. Our knowledge of the brain is as much as 50 years behind understanding of nearly every other organ in the body.
“GE and the NFL came together out of a shared interest to change that. With the right commitment, what we learn in the next few years can eclipse everything we’ve ever learned about the brain to date. And it’s critical that we do. We know how important this is to the NFL and the sport of football. But we also know that the discoveries we hope to make will extend far beyond professional sports, to our military and to trauma victims worldwide.”
What was your reaction to the volume and quality of the submissions received for the first Head Health Challenge?
“We were excited and impressed! The submissions to the first Head Health Challenge included more than 400 submissions from over 25 countries with about half coming from distinguished academic institutions. The applications have been through a rigorous review process and the judges are going through final review now. We are excited to announce winners early next year.”
How do you see the Head Health Initiative impacting science and innovation in the future?
“The goals of the Head Health Challenges are to advance the prevention, detection, and management of mild traumatic brain injuries. Our pledge is to find, fund, and move forward ground-breaking innovations that should help improve the diagnosis of TBI, and the outlook for those that are diagnosed with it. In addition to helping athletes of all types, it is our hope that these technologies should also benefit our military and civilians with head trauma. It lays the foundation for even further advances to come in this important field.
“At GE, we’re very committed to research and development, and have great researchers. But we’re not going to invent every great idea. We don’t have all the answers. By putting our brains together with the NFL, Under Armour and the scientific community, we can advance brain science. We can apply our learning to everything from concussions to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. We can improve the understanding of our command center, the brain.”