N.F.L. Joins With General Electric Company in Effort to Detect Concussions

Published: Feb 04, 2013

The N.F.L., faced with increasing concern about the toll of concussions and confronted with litigation involving thousands of former players, is planning to form a partnership with General Electric to jump-start development of imaging technology that would detect concussions and encourage the creation of materials to better protect the brain. The four-year initiative, which is expected to begin in March with at least $50 million from the league and G.E., is the result of a late October conversation between Commissioner Roger Goodell and G.E.’s chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, a former offensive tackle at Dartmouth. When Goodell explained his idea of getting leading companies in innovation to join the N.F.L. to accelerate research, Immelt said he wanted to help. After years of insisting there was no link between head injuries sustained on the field and long-term cognitive impairment, the N.F.L. has altered rules, fined and suspended players who hit opponents in the head and contributed millions of dollars for the study of head injuries. “Is this their way of defending themselves with this cloud over the sport? I’d be lying if I told you it had nothing to do with it,” Kevin Guskiewicz, the founding director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center at the University of North Carolina, said of the initiative. Guskiewicz is a member of the league’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee and the chairman of a subcommittee focused on safety equipment and playing rules. He will work with the N.F.L. and G.E. to identify areas of focus. “They’ve got to protect their image right now; the headlines are not good headlines,” he said, referring to the league. “Football has an image problem. There is some of that. But I do think the N.F.L. is smart to partner with some major technology gurus.”

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