A Lincoln software investment firm is getting heavily involved in research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln aimed at preventing concussions and other brain injuries.
Nebraska Global Investment Co. will develop software and hardware, such as cameras, that university researchers will use to measure athletic performance at the proposed Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior that will be housed in the East Stadium addition now under construction.
It's a fresh approach to an old problem, and its announcement Thursday at a UNL retreat was part of an effort to spark collaboration between the athletics department and academic faculty to improve the work of the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior.
“Sometimes in athletics, we do things because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” Husker Athletic Director Tom Osborne said. “We’re interested in ensuring everything we’re doing in athletics makes sense.”
Although the center has yet to receive formal approval, the research space in the stadium will be approximately 20,000 square feet and cost $1.5 million.
The center will focus on studying concussions and already has begun working with researchers at other universities to gather and analyze data on brain injuries.
The Big Ten established a conference-wide concussion management plan in 2010. In June, Big Ten and Ivy League leaders announced a partnership that will focus on studying head injuries in sports, with UNL researcher Dennis Molfese at the forefront.
As director of the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, Molfese already has begun forging partnerships with local brain and heart researchers, as well as Nebraska Global, to begin identifying the kind of research the center will conduct and developing tools to complete that research.
Thursday’s agenda at UNL involved getting more university researchers involved in the effort. Osborne said he hopes the center will bridge the gap between athletics and academics at UNL.
“There will be some synergy here, and it will be very powerful,” he said.
Steve Kiene, managing principal at Nebraska Global, said his company will primarily develop software and hardware that will help to treat and prevent brain injuries of Nebraska athletes.
The company already has begun working on several tools, including 3-D motion analysis for strength and conditioning and an Internet portal where parents of athletes can get health and academic information. Nebraska Global also has begun developing a psychological assessment of potential athletes to screen those athletes for psychological problems that might impair their performance.
Osborne said 25 percent of student athletes fail on the field or in school because of personal problems they bring with them to college and the university would like to reduce that failure rate.
Molfese said he hopes to attract up to $6 million a year in grants from various agencies for brain research once the center is fully operational.
"We basically want to dominate mainstream research through our activities," he said.
Paul said the center has the potential to discover truly important methods for treating and preventing brain injury.
“It will improve the quality of life for all of us,” he said.