New Computer Model May Help Prevent Concussions

Computer Brain Model

It is clear now that athletes are at an increased risk for concussions. However, until now it has been difficult in pinpointing the exact cause of injury, because nobody really knew which movements are responsible for concussion-related brain injuries.

Science Daily reported on a new computer model out of John Hopkins’ Whiting School of Engineering that is said to have the capability to pinpoint different types of movements and their effects on the brain. Scientists are hoping this new technological advance will reduce the number of concussions in sport and combat-related brain injuries.

The scramble to find the cause of sports-related concussions comes at no better time than in light of a recent class action lawsuit from thousands of former NFL players. Retired players have been hit hard with symptoms of untreated concussions and claim that the NFL did not properly investigate reported injuries. Some players were also clueless about the effects of concussions on life after the playing days are over. According to the lawsuit, players claim that the NFL failed to inform them of the long-term risks associated with “minor” concussions – which experts now believe have long-term negative impact on the brain.

Technology behind the Model

Previously, MRIs and CT-scans were used to look at a brain post-concussion. However, researchers make a valid statement that unless you know exactly what occurred during the sudden movement, you have no way of knowing what to look for in a scan. The recent effort to develop a computer model that tells us exactly what happened during a particular type of movement is the precise targeted effort to bridge the gap between occurrence of a brain impact and an actual brain scan.

Fancy science aside, the model uses what’s called “diffusion tensor imaging” to pinpoint tiny fibers in a particular type of brain tissue termed as “white matter” that were damaged as a result of an impact. When the fibers are located, engineers have a better understanding of which part of the brain was most likely impacted and what type of movement caused the injury.

The new technology is said to have a broad range of applications for scenarios where brain injuries occur – think car accidents and slips and falls. The imaging process is expected to expedite critical treatment far sooner than possible today and to help affected industries, such as the NFL and our military to implement new safeguards in order to prevent further injuries.

More Testing Needed to Verify Accuracy

When exactly is this going to be widely used by the medical community? We’re not sure just yet. According to researchers, more data and testing must be conducted in order to have the technology widely adapted. The lead researcher behind this computer simulation study is hoping that data from devices (used to measure impact forces) embedded in equipment worn by athletes will confirm the accuracy of the current model.

Impact on Brain Injury Cases

The implications of this new model on brain injury cases can be quite significant. Having the right information in hand as to the exact cause of the injury can eliminate a lot of back and forth negotiation based on lack of understanding of injuries. With proof in hand of what actually caused a brain injury, attorneys can save time trying to prove to the insurance companies that the injury was in fact sustained in the claimed incident.

 

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