A new partnership's been announced between the Buffalo Bills and a Rochester health tech company. Concussions are a main focus. It's part of what doctors say is a changing culture in sports medicine.
It's a part of football, perhaps more than any other sport. Injuries range from the nagging to the serious. Thus, a partnership between the Buffalo Bills and researchers at Carestream Health.
Carestream's digital medical president, Diana Nole, showed off an x-ray machine similar to that which will be located at Ralph Wilson Stadium for Bills home games. A smaller, portable version will travel with the team when they play in Toronto.
"They'll be able to use it on game day or any time during the season to take x-ray images of the players," Nole said.
The partnership will also help Carestream explore the team's needs when it comes to concussions. Several incidents, including the suicide of former NFL star linebacker
Junior Seau, have prompted the league to take brain injuries more seriously.
"We're very interested, as the league is, with the effects of long-term impacts from concussions, traumatic brain injuries. So one of the specific areas we're looking at is advanced imaging technology beyond this specifically for that area of injury," said Nole.
When it comes to diagnosing and treating concussions, experts say the culture in recent years certainly has changed; not only in pro football, but other levels as well.
"People really, really are on the ball with recognizing these," said University of Rochester Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian, an expert on brain injury.
Bazarian led a study on the effects of repeated blows to the head by football players. U of R players two years ago wore helmets, which were equipped with sensors to detect hits to the head. Research found it happens up to 70 or 80 times per game.
"That's really opened up everyone's eyes as to how often people get hit during the course of a game or a season."
Bazarian says in theory, x-ray machines and other technology in training rooms are a good idea, though he has some concerns.
"My fear is that people that may have injury that wouldn't be noticed on a sideline test might be sent back into a contest where they might be hit a second time."
Bazarian envisions something similar to a baseball pitch count, setting limits on how may shots to the head football players and other athletes can take before they're benched.
"We're really being able to show people that this is a serious issue."