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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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Brain Injury Alliance of Washington Presented Leadership Award to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

The Brain Injury Alliance of Washington (BIAWA) presented National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell with its Leadership Award at the 8th Annual B.I.G. Event (Brain Injury Gala) on November 1.

The evening’s theme was “Stronger Together, Celebrating 50,”  in celebration of the passage of youth concussion legislation in all 50 states. Many of the laws were modeled after Washington state’s first in the nation “Zackery Lystedt Law.”

The BIAWA “the NFL’s support and leadership to ensure passage of youth concussion laws throughout the country.  Through the NFL’s dedication and that of the 32 clubs to advocate before every state legislature and the Commissioner’s willingness to contact the governor or every state that did not have a law, all the states adopted laws to protect youth athletes,” according to the association..

“The passage of the Lystedt Law in all 50 states is an important step for all young athletes and their parents,” said Commissioner Goodell.  “The Lystedts, BIAWA and others should rightfully be proud of all that they did to make the nationwide passage a reality. We are honored to support their work to protect all young players, no matter what sport they play. We will continue to focus on making our game better and safer and setting the right example on health and safety in sports.”


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Sports Legacy Institute to Honor US Women’s Soccer Legends Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow Cone at 7th Annual Impact Awards Dinner on Oct. 30

The Sports Legacy Institute (SLI) will honor US Women’s Soccer Legends Brandi Chastain and Cindy Parlow Cone each with an Impact Award at SLI’s annual dinner that recognizes organizations and individuals for their commitment to solving the concussion crisis. The awards will be presented at the 7th Annual Impact Awards dinner, which raises funds for the non-profit SLI’s concussion advocacy, awareness, education, and research programs, on Thursday, October 30, 2014, at the Boston Harbor Hotel.

Chastain and Cone have been spokespersons for the Parents and Pros for Safer Soccer campaign (SaferSoccer.org, #SaferSoccer), which SLI launched in June with the Santa Clara University Institute for Sports Law and Ethics. The campaign seeks to eliminate headers in youth soccer prior to high school to reduce the risk of concussion in youth soccer players and allow them to focus on foot skill development. Nearly half of concussions could be eliminated in middle school soccer players by delaying the introduction of heading.

#SaferSoccer has been met with resistance from the soccer industry, but thanks to the leadership of Chastain and Cone, it is winning supporters among professional soccer players, coaches, schools, advocacy organizations, and youth soccer programs. A full list of supporters can be found at  SaferSoccer.org.

“It takes leaders to create culture change, and Cindy Parlow Cone and Brandi Chastain are tireless advocates for protecting youth soccer players from concussions. The concussion care debacles at the 2014 FIFA World Cup showed us how far we have to go to change hearts and minds among soccer leadership, and I know we can count on Cindy and Brandi to lead that change,” said Dr. Robert Cantu, founding medical director of SLI.

The Impact Awards will be hosted by Jim Braude, host of New England Cable News (NECN) show “BroadSide” and co-host of Boston Public Radio on WGBH. Last year’s Impact Awards gathered over 250 attendees, athletes, and distinguished guests from across the country and raised more than $360,000 to support concussion advocacy, awareness, education, and research. Prior honorees include The Ivy League, WWE, the NFL, Dr. Ann McKee, and former athletes Ted Johnson, Micky Ward, and Keith Primeau.

Cindy Parlow Cone is also being honored with the SLI Impact Award for being the first female athlete to pledge to donate her brain to the VA-BU-SLI Brain Bank back in 2008. Since then, over 600 current and former athletes, including over 100 female athletes, have joined her. In addition, she courageously shared her ongoing struggle with post-concussion syndrome for the documentary Head Games.

Cone played on the US National Team for a decade and retired due to post-concussion syndrome as the 5th all-time leading goal scorer. She won gold medals in the 1996 and 2004 Olympics and helped lead the 1999 World Cup title-winning team. A two-time national champion and Hermann Trophy winner as the National Player of the Year at the University of North Carolina, she coached the Portland Timbers of the National Women’s Soccer League to the title in 2013 and also serves as director of coaching for the Triangle United Soccer Association.

Brandi Chastain is famed for her iconic penalty kick conversion that clinched the 1999 Women’s World Cup Soccer title for the US. A professional soccer player and member of the US National Team, Chastain’s international career spanned two decades and is highlighted by a 1996 Olympic gold medal and 1999 World Cup title. A graduate of Santa Clara University, Chastain now serves as a color commentator for both NBC and ABC, a volunteer assistant coach at Santa Clara, and on the board of the Institute for Sports Law and Ethics.

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