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January 29, 2018
Media Contact: Phil Sneiderman
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Super Bowl Marks the Season’s End, But Concussion Concerns Continue
Johns Hopkins Experts are Developing Tech Tool to Help Assess Head-Injury Damage

Newswise — When this year’s NFL season concludes with the Super Bowl, avid football fans will cheer for perfectly thrown touchdown passes and high-flying field goals. But K.T. Ramesh, a biomechanics expert at Johns Hopkins University, will pay more attention to the collateral damage that can occur during football games: head injuries. He is developing a technological tool to help better diagnose concussions and predict where related brain damage has likely occurred.

Ramesh, a mechanical engineering professor and director of the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute, has been researching traumatic brain injuries for years. Most recently, he has used National Institutes of Health funding to collaborate with NIH researchers and Jerry L. Prince, a professor in the university’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, in the creation of a digital head model. Because each individual’s brain is unique and reacts differently when stressed, he hopes personalized digital head models will someday be used by medical professionals to more quickly and effectively diagnose concussions.

One key focus of Ramesh’s work explains why concussions are being diagnosed more frequently than in years past. “You can get a concussion even without being hit in the head,” he says. “All you need to do is move the head fast enough. Let’s say you get hit on the side of the shoulder, and you hit the ground, shoulder first. Your head may rotate rapidly, without ever hitting the ground. The impact is what most people think about, but the rotation may actually be more important in terms of concussion. So, the bigger danger may be when your head gets turned too fast.”   

Using MRI imagery, Ramesh would like to see a “digital twin” head model created for athletes in high school, with updates every few years. “If we already have a history of scans when an athlete gets a head injury,” he says, “we can say that, based on the kind of person you are and the kind of event that occurred, it's likely to be this kind of injury, and therefore medical professionals should perhaps use this kind of diagnostic procedure to look at it.” 

Ramesh is available to talk to members of the news media about concussions and how best to diagnose where brain injury occurs when players are hit. To arrange an interview, contact Phil Sneiderman at 410-299-7462 or [email protected].

Related articles about Ramesh’s head injury research:

Conquering Concussions
JHU Engineering – Summer 2014

Computer helps identify conditions for brain injuries
Johns Hopkins Hub – April 2013