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UNL's research is hoping to solve concussion mysteries

Posted at 7:15 AM, Oct 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-04 19:41:05-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Today concludes reporter Jon Kipper's series on concussions. After looking at youth and high school football for most of the week, the final installment takes a bit of a different path. The Center for Brain, Biology, and Behavior is on the forefront of concussion research and as Kipper shows us, it's doing something no other university in the country is doing.

SEE ALSO: Parents struggle with the potential dangers of youth football

Football and soccer are the two sports with the highest rates of concussions. The UNL Center for Brain, Biology, and Behavior, or CB3, is honing in on that and studying the brain of every Husker that plays the two sports.

"This center was built into memorial stadium for a reason," said Cary Savage, CB3 Director.

Savage says what they're doing inside east stadium is unique.

"This is the only program in the country that's scanning everyone." Savage said.

Before they start their careers as Huskers, every football and women's soccer athlete gets an MRI scan. They then look at the structural and functional parts of the brain, which gives them a baseline for whenever the player gets a concussion at Nebraska.

And if it happens, they come back to east stadium for another scan, and then another a few days later as they recover.

"We can then use to help doctors make decisions about how serious was this concussion and how likely are they to recover." Savage said.

While this certainly helps the student athletes, there's a bigger picture.

There are so many questions they want answered. Nobody knows why some people get CTE, a degenerative brain disease found in some NFL players. Also, it's unclear why some athletes are back in a week and others take more time.

"We still have no ability to scan a person's brain and say something about his or her likely recovery and that's what we hope to accomplish." Savage said.

Now, they're trying to break it down even more. The women's soccer team was added to the mix this year.

"We want to be sure to study women as well because women get concussions too, there's a lot of data to suggest that men and women act differently to concussion and recover differently." Savage said.

With both teams playing in the hyper-competitive Big Ten, the center can also serve as a recruiting tool, at least to the parents.

"Doesn't mean we can answer every question, but we're using state of the art right now, to help you protect your son or daughters health." Savage said.

While UNL is on the cutting edge, they're not alone. They're in a pact with the Big Ten and Ivy League, collecting information on their athletes with concussions, hoping that gathering all that data gives them a clearer picture.

"There's so much variability but when you have hundreds or thousands of concussions you can start to answer some of those questions." Savage said.

While it's not currently being done, the center doesn't want to stop collecting data when athletes graduate, they'd eventually like them to come back.

"In the long run we would like to bring people in after their football careers and study them as they age." Savage said.

3 News Now Reporter Jon Kipper's debrief about today's story:

Concussion Concern: UNL Brain Center Debrief

SEE ALSO: Changing attitudes and focus on athletes suffering concussions