NFL Donates $30 Million to NIH

The league is the founding donor to a new Sports and Health Research Program that will research concussions, the relationship between traumatic brain injury and late life neurodegenerative disorders, sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes, and additional health topics.

More than 257,000 followers of the National Institutes of Health's Twitter page may already know that the National Football League announced a $30 million donation to NIH on Sept. 5. Both the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health and the league announced the gift on the opening day of the new NFL season, both saying it is the largest donation in the history of the NFL.

In an interview with Albert Breer that is posted at www.nfl.com, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the gift "is part of our continuing effort to try to pioneer research that is going to improve the safety of our players and well beyond our players –- in other sports and even beyond sports. We wanted to find the answers that we think are so important for either head injuries or long-term cognitive care," he continued.

Breer and Goodell discussed a similar partnership with the U.S. Army that the NFL announced a week earlier. They also discussed the concussion lawsuit pending against the 32 NFL team owners and also the suicides of former players, including Junior Seau, who died at home of a gunshot wound May 2, 2012, in what was ruled a suicide. The NIH will study brain tissue from Seau.

Goodell told Breer that the NFL had funded research beginning in the 1990s, well before any litigation over concussions. "This is being done to continue our efforts to pioneer that research, make our game safer and make other games safer," he said, according to the online transcript.

The FNIH release said the donation makes the NFL the founding donor to a new Sports and Health Research Program that will be conducted in collaboration with institutes and centers at NIH. "Specific plans for the research to be undertaken remain to be developed, but potential areas under discussion include: chronic traumatic encephalopathy; concussion; understanding the potential relationship between traumatic brain injury and late life neurodegenerative disorders, especially Alzheimer's disease; chronic degenerative joint disease; the transition from acute to chronic pain; sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes; and heat and hydration-related illness and injury," it stated, adding that other donors, including sports organizations, will be invited to join the collaboration.

"We are grateful for the NFL's generosity," said Dr. Stephanie James, Foundation for the National Institutes of Health acting executive director and CEO. "The research to be funded by this donation will accelerate scientific discovery that will benefit athletes and the general public alike."

"We are looking forward to working with the NFL and other organizations to conduct research on a host of medical conditions affecting athletes," said Dr. Story Landis, director of NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "Findings from this research will provide us with better ways to detect, diagnose and treat these conditions, and in some cases, even prevent their occurrence."

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