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Announcing 1st And Future, A Startup Competition from the NFL and the Texas Medical Center

The Texas Medical Center has been working with Health 2.0 to promote startup competitions, incubators and health tech innovation for a while now. But this is the first time that I recall them giving the opportunity to win Superbowl tickets. Intrigued? Read on–Matthew Holt

On February 5, Super Bowl LI will take place in Houston, Texas at NRG Stadium. Houston is home to technology breakthroughs across all sectors: Spindletop, the Port of Houston, the Houston Ship Channel, Johnson Space Center, and the Texas Medical Center (TMC). With every discovery comes great benefit to those locally, and beyond.

With that spirit of innovation, the NFL has partnered with the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical complex in the world, to host a sports-tech pitch competition — 1st & Future.

1st and Future is a unique pitch competition that will take place at the Texas Medical Center Accelerator (TMCx) in Houston on February 4, 2017. Up to nine startups will be invited to present their solutions to help advance the game and the safety of its players to an exclusive audience including NFL team owners and executives, in addition to invitees of the Texas Medical Center and the NFL.

For more information about the pitch competition, here are some frequently asked questions:

What are the competition themes?

  • Communicating with the Athlete: New technologies that will improve the secure and safe means of communication between a coach on the sideline or in the coaches’ booth and a designated player on the field. Specifications can be found on the event website.
  • Training the Athlete: Educational and training innovations designed to reduce injury during practice or competition. Innovations may include training techniques or equipment.
  • Materials to Protect the Athlete: Novel or innovative solutions and materials that advance player health and safety while allowing for the highest-level of performance. Innovations may include, but are not limited to, materials that: improve breathability, heat dissipation or provide better protection for players by absorbing or mitigating force. These materials may be incorporated into protective equipment, padding, uniforms or footwear among other potential uses.

How do I apply?

Visit www.tmc.edu/1st-and-future to find more information on the program and a link to the application. The application deadline is January 20, 2017.            Continue reading…

Would I Let My Son Play Football?

“Would I let my son play football?”

It’s a question that more and more parents are asking themselves these days. There are some people out there who say, “No way!”

Football is way too violent and should be abolished as a sport. Even some NFL players admit that they would not let their own sons play football. Then there are others, fierce advocates who think football is a wonderful game with tremendous benefits to its participants and think all of the media hype about injuries are just overrated scare tactics and headline grabbers.

But the majority of us are probably somewhere in the middle and aren’t quite sure what to think. So why don’t we spend a little time sifting through all the facts and emotions and see if we can make some logical decisions about the subject. I have an interesting perspective in that I am a sports medicine physician who is a true fan of the game, has played the game, has sustained injuries and has a son of my own.

Thus I can see the argument from all sides. Let’s start with the physician side. My job is taking care of injured athletes. I see patients with fractures, sprains, strains, overuse injuries, head injuries, concussions, trauma, you name it. During the months of August, September, October and November, I probably see more patients than I do for the entire remainder of the year. Why? Football season.

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How Football Ends

Like many in neuroscience, I’ve been thinking about the consequences of traumatic brain injury in football. In thinking about this, I think I’ve figured out how American-style football will end. I’m putting the over/under at about 10 years.

The simple explanation of football is this: football is the optimal activity to put the maximum explosive energy a human can develop and deliver it to another human, pause, catch your breath, and do it again. Football is a game of inches, and so the ball is carried by huge, weight-lifting sprinters who hurl their 200+ pound frames at a line of huge, weight-lifting thugs who try to stop them cold. I am not anti-football: I played a little football in high school, I played full-pads, full contact intramural football while an undergraduate (an insurance company’s nightmare), and was a rugby player and coach as a graduate student. My own athletic skill was thuggery.

The problem with this is that repetitive shocks to the brain seem to create pathology in the brain of the protein tau. Athletes who engage in contact sports have a tendency to suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is identified pathologically by finding dense tangles of tau. Dense tangles of tau have been found in boxers, football players, professional wrestlers, and soldiers. There is concern in hockey players and soccer players who head the ball. One researcher found tau tangles in 8 of 9 donated brains from former NFL players.  This kind of accumulation of tau is associated with young-onset dementia, cognitive change, and mood disorders.

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The NFL Concussion Crisis & The Doctor-Patient Relationship

If you are reading this then you are already well aware of the current concussion crisis in the NFL. No matter where on the spectrum your opinions lie regarding this topic, there is one question that still remains: How did we get here? Surely if something has gone wrong then there must be someone to blame for it. Was it the league’s fault? The coaches? The players? The doctors? Maybe it is the injury itself that’s to blame? Perhaps it was just the perfect storm of a number of factors that put us in this situation? To truly get to the bottom of this, it is important to have a better understanding of the doctor-patient relationship. Not just in general, but specifically as it applies to concussed athletes in the NFL. Ultimately we may not find blame here, but we should at least shed some light on the realities of the situation.

As a sports medicine physician, I have taken care of thousands of concussed athletes at all levels. Eight year old hockey players, high school soccer players, collegiate football players, professional moto-cross racers and skaters, you name it. For all of them, the doctor-patient dynamic is similar. However, for the NFL players, that dynamic is entirely different. Let’s begin by looking at the usual non-NFL doctor-patient relationship.

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