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GE Healthcare, NFL Partner to Improve Concussion Diagnoses

Dr. Robert Carlier, Dr. Frederic Colas, CHU Raymond Poincaré in France

The Green Bay Packers’ season begins with a Sunday afternoon struggle against the San Francisco 49ers.  But the struggle is a different one for players who have sustained head injuries.

The National Football League last week settled a lawsuit with former players who sustained brain injuries during their careers.  But another group of four players filed a new suit this week, claiming the league and a helmet manufacturer hid the true dangers of brain injury.

The NFL points to proactive measures it says it is taking to protect players today.  One of those is a partnership – the Head Health Initiative - with the Milwaukee area’s GE Healthcare. 

Baldev Ahuwalia is the premium segment manager in MRI for GE Healthcare. He says the partnership provides funding for developing the next generation of MRI devices, which could make diagnosing brain injuries easier. 

"Specific to traumatic brain injury, it is also a tool that is used, but it’s not – I believe – has the resolution or capabilities needed today to do a better evaluation of someone who has been concussed or had a traumatic brain injury," he says.

For example, current MRI technology makes it hard to see small, but potentially impactful, issues in the brain.

"Depending upon the level of impact or the type of concussion, you can have very small microbleeds, or it is felt, I should say, there can be small microbleeds based on the severity of the concussion," Ahuwalia says. "And if there are microbleeds, it may take you longer to recover."

Ahuwalia says MRIs use strong magnetic fields and radiowaves to look at how water's protons are bound to different kinds of tissue in the body, and how those binds change using different parameters.