FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Richard M. Greenwald
Simbex extends partnership with Dartmouth Medical School, Thayer School of Engineering on concussion research
Lebanon, NH- September 1, 2011 - With a two-year, $1.3-million grant, researchers from the Lebanon-based company Simbex, Dartmouth Medical School (DMS) and Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth will explore novel approaches to understanding the causes of and clinical outcomes following sports-related concussions.
Co-principal investigators for the project, supported by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE), are Simbex president Richard M. Greenwald, PhD, Dartmouth psychiatrist Thomas McAllister, MD, and Dartmouth Assistant Professor of Engineering Songbai Ji, ScD.
"This is a great opportunity to answer important questions related to the link between head impact biomechanics, brain tissue motion, and neuroimaging findings in young athletes who sustain concussions," said Greenwald. "Together, we offer a unique team to rapidly advance scientific knowledge on concussions, and then to immediately translate those findings to the development of improved standards for sports equipment."
The NOCSAE award extends the Bioengineering Research Partnership (BRP) that formed in 2007 with funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), under which Dartmouth and Simbex collaborated with researchers at Brown University and Virginia Tech, as well as grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The purpose of these programs is to understand the biomechanical basis of mild traumatic brain injury in sports. The researchers collected data on head-impact exposure in football and hockey with Simbex's Head Impact Telemetry (HIT) System, along with clinical data on athletes diagnosed with concussion and controls, including signs and symptoms, neuropsychological testing, and neuroimaging. The NOCSAE program will focus specifically on quantifying the utility of finite element modeling to predict brain injury at the tissue level found in post-injury imaging of the athletes.
Advances in neuroimaging, and in particular the use of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), hold great promise for identifying structural injuries at the tissue level. "We now have a large enough cohort of scans on injured athletes that can be used to statistically evaluate patterns of axonal injury in different regions of the brain," McAllister said.
In parallel with the ongoing BRP field research on Dartmouth's football, men's hockey, and women's hockey players, the researchers collaborated with Thayer School professors Ji and Keith Paulsen, PhD, to develop subject-specific, finite-element head and brain models, with the goal of estimating tissue strains and stresses under applied loading conditions.
"Finite element models represent a unique tool to study the biomechanics of brain tissue which cannot be easily measured directly," Ji reports. "The availability of MRI images of the athletes' brains allows us to create a model of that athlete's head and brain, and to apply the loading conditions from an impact associated with their diagnosed injury that were recorded on the field with the HIT System."
A pilot study on this work has been accepted for publication in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering.
NOCSAE is a non-profit organization that creates performance standards for sports equipment including football helmets. NOCSAE has provided millions of dollars of research funding in the past 20 years, with a recent focus on mild traumatic brain injury and concussions. The organization's Scientific Advisory Board, of which Greenwald is a member, has recommended several research awards to better address issues related to helmet test methods, human injury tolerance levels, and standards for youth helmets.
Greenwald added, "We acknowledge and applaud NOCSAE's efforts to better understand the science of concussion injury. We hope to deliver to NOCSAE and to the public information that can be directly applied to the diagnosis and treatment of concussions in sports, and to improving the development and testing of helmets used to protect our kids and our athletes."
Simbex is a research and product development company whose core expertise is biomechanical feedback systems. The company develops marketable products and solutions from emerging technologies for active life improvement in the areas of prosthetics, sports injury prevention and rehabilitation. The founders are internationally recognized experts in their fields and have decades of experience in the area of functional evaluation and efficacy assessment of complex biomechanical systems for the sporting goods, orthopedic and exercise equipment industries. The research branch of the company is supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense. For further information about Simbex, visit the company's Web site at http://www.simbex.com.
About Dartmouth Medical School
Dartmouth Medical School occupies a distinctive place in American medical education. One of the nation's first medical schools, today it is highly regarded for its emphasis on innovation and leadership. The School melds the resources of an Ivy League institution and a world class academic health care system to provide outstanding education, research, and service. For more information about Dartmouth Medical School, visit the DMS Web site at http://dms.dartmouth.edu.
About Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth
Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth operates with a single unified Department of Engineering Sciences offering both undergraduate and graduate programs. Undergraduate engineering is taught as part of a liberal arts education to provide the best preparation for solving the world's problems. Graduate programs include the Master of Engineering Management (M.E.M.), M.S., Ph.D., and the nation's first Ph.D. Innovation Program. In addition, Thayer School teams with Dartmouth Medical School to offer M.S./M.D. and M.D./Ph.D. degrees. Teaching and research is advancing innovation in three focus areas: engineering in medicine; energy technologies; and complex systems. For more information, visit the Thayer School Web site at http://engineering.dartmouth.edu