Under Armour, NFL & GE Announce Seven Winners of Head Health Challenge II

Under Armour (NYSE:UA), the NFL and GE (NYSE: GE) has announced seven winners of the Head Health Challenge II. Each award winner will receive $500,000, and will also have the opportunity to receive an additional  $1,000,000 to advance their work to better protect against brain injury. The disruptive ideas introduced by these seven entities are designed to increase brain safety for athletes, members of the armed forces and society at-large. The stories behind the winning entities and their pioneering efforts in this field are showcased in seven short online videos available to watch at www.headhealthchallenge.com.

The award winners were selected from nearly 500 proposals from 19 countries, which were submitted between September 2013 and February 2014. Under Armour, the NFL and GE will monitor the progress of these seven initiatives during the next year, and will reward up to five of the winning teams with an additional $1,000,000 in 2015, contingent upon continued innovation advancements, potential for commercialization and on-field impact.

The open innovation challenge is part of the multi-year collaboration among Under Armour, GE and the NFL called the Head Health Initiative. Launched in March 2013, the initiative includes a four-year, $40 million research and development program from the NFL and GE to evaluate and develop next generation imaging technologies to improve diagnosis, which would allow for targeting treatment therapy for patients with mild traumatic brain injury. The two open innovation challenges will provide as much as $20 million in research and technology development to better understand, diagnose and protect against brain injury.

The Challenge award winners are:

Army Research Laboratory, Baltimore, MD—The Army Research Laboratory (ARL) created rate-dependent tethers that allow free motion at low speeds, but provide high force resistance during high-speed events.  ARL proposes using these smart materials to connect the head to the torso, allowing voluntary head movement during sports action, while minimizing sudden accelerations caused by high speed collisions, often associated with concussions.  Beyond sports, this technology also has the potential to mitigate head trauma for members of the military.

Emory University, Atlanta, GA—Researchers and engineers from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology developed a prototype medical device that can screen and assess concussions in near real-time. The portable device, known as iDETECT, can be used on the sidelines of sporting events. It consists of a headset and handheld device that rapidly assesses the player’s symptoms, including cognitive function, balance and eye movements.

UCLA, Los Angeles, CA—UCLA and Architected Materials, Inc. are developing a new energy-absorbing microlattice material for improved helmet performance.  They are developing a material to be used as a new under-helmet liner that would absorb significantly more energy than current designs and therefore better protect the brain.  Through a collaboration of material designers, mechanical impact experts, and neuroscientists, they will utilize a new 3D printing platform to develop real-time responsive helmet technology.

The University of Miami, Miami, FL—The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Neuro Kinetics, Inc., is developing a portable eye-goggle that gathers and measures precise eye movements.  The I-Portal® PAS goggle will assist in identifying mild traumatic brain injury in real time, leading to more accurate concussion diagnosis. This advanced research into traumatic brain injuries has received funding support from the U.S. military at the Army Medical Research and Materials Command and the Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence.

University of Washington, Seattle, WA– Together with commercial partner, VICIS, Inc., the UW team is developing a revolutionary football helmet.  The helmet boasts a novel impact absorbing structure that mitigates forces likely to cause concussion.  The UW/VICIS team is built with thought-leading neurosurgeons, mechanical engineers, and business leaders committed to using science to protect athletes.

Viconic Sporting, Inc., Detroit, MI—Viconic’s research is focused on developing an underlayer for synthetic turf systems that will make fields safer for those who play on them.  Viconic’s technology is widely used for impact management in the automotive and sporting industries and in the U.S. Military. Viconic will further explore the relationship between optimized head impact protection and the frequency of lower limb injuries in an effort to provide the synthetic turf industry a tool to specify systems that maximize player safety and minimize system costs.

University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH—University of New Hampshire researcher Erik Swartz will lead a study to evaluate the effectiveness of a helmet-less tackling training system called the HuTTTM Technique.  Proposed as an intervention for head impact prevention in high school football, this technique emphasizes proper tackling and blocking technique using closely supervised drills where players participate without their helmets and shoulder pads. UNH will investigate whether regular implementation of the HuTTTM technique results in player behavior change and reduces injury risk by reinforcing proper technique when players go into full-equipment play.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “Each of these seven winners will help advance the science towards our shared goal of making sports safer.  New materials, equipment designs and technology breakthroughs will better protect athletes, no matter what sport they play.  We are looking forward to supporting their next stages of development.”

Under Armour Founder and CEO Kevin Plank said, “By partnering with the NFL and GE, we have created a dynamic forum with the Head Health Challenge II that energizes people to join our pursuit of breakthrough solutions and empowers these innovators with substantial financial support to fund their ideas.”

For more information about the Head Health Challenge, including information on the Challenge II judges, visit www.headhealthchallenge.com.

Watch the winners’ videos:

Army Research Laboratory: www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRE0UtnnqJQ

Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oalhVkd3bQ

UCLA and Architected Materials, Inc.: www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkjZdbKMviI

The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Neuro Kinetics, Inc: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dmICd4lJ9A

University of Washington and VICIS, Inc.: www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOhaicBRj9c

Viconic Sporting, Inc.: www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nOx_28nIDY

University of New Hampshire: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiLvd2-SxXc

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