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NFL Charities awards concussion research grant to kinesiology team

Donald DengelResearchers at the University of Minnesota's School of Kinesiology have been awarded a $100,000 medical research grant by NFL Charities.

Led by associate professor Donald Dengel, Ph.D., a team at the U of M, will study the effects of multiple sports-related concussions on neurocognition and cerebral vascular function.

"We have developed a new ability for an MRI to show us how blood vessels in the brain are functioning in individuals who have suffered multiple sports-related concussions," said Dengel. "Understanding the function level of the blood vessels allows us to correlate that to cognitive function. This grant is a stepping stone to move this research to the next level."

Those who have suffered multiple concussions often complain of having trouble concentrating during work or have trouble reading. While these individuals don't show signs of structural damage, the concussions may actually affect the performance of the blood vessels in the brain, thereby altering the brain's cognitive function abilities.

This is the first study conducted by U of M researchers that has been awarded a grant by NFL Charities.

This grant is among 15 given out by NFL Charities this year to support sports-related medical research, totaling more than $1.5 million. Of those funds, more than $950,000 is dedicated to concussion prevention and treatment.

"We are proud to support sports-related medical research through NFL Charities Medical Research Grants," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, president of the NFL Charities Board. "These research projects have implications far beyond football, and we are committed to playing a role in helping make sports safer."

NFL Charities has actively solicited and placed emphasis on research proposals focused on areas including concussion/traumatic brain injury research and cardiovascular research. Three separate NFL Charities Medical Grant review committees evaluated the 2011 grant proposals based on each committee's area of expertise. Recommendations were submitted to the NFL Charities Board of Directors for approval.

Other universities and organizations receiving grants include: Columbia University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Buffalo (NY), University of California, Berkeley, University of Miami (FL), University of New Hampshire, Washington University (MO), Washington State University, Yale University, The Brigham & Women's Hospital, Inc., Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and Hospital for Special Surgery, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Surgery.

NFL Charities is a non-profit organization created by the 32 member clubs of the National Football League to enable the teams to collectively make grants to charitable and worthwhile causes on a national scale. Since its inception, NFL Charities has granted more than $148 million to more than 1,400 different organizations. NFL Charities' primary funding categories include: sports-related medical research and education grants; player foundation grants in support of the philanthropic work of current and former NFL players; financial assistance for former NFL players in need; impact grants to support national youth health and fitness education initiatives as part of a league-wide commitment to fight childhood obesity; and team program grants which supplement the charitable and community activities of the 32 NFL clubs.

See an example of TV media coverage of this story at KSTP.

See more about concussion research in this video documentary sponsored by the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport.

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