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  • NIH and NFL Award Grants for TBI Research

    A partnership created by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Football League (NFL) will be awarding over $14 million in grants for research focused on the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the development of better ways to diagnose and measure concussions.

    The Sports and Health Research Program issued a press release on December 16 announcing that 8 projects have been selected for the funding. Two major research efforts will receive $6 million each, and over $2 million in additional funding will be spread out over 6 pilot projects mostly focused on ways to better detect concussion presence and severity.

    The $6 million grants will be used to pursue research around chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). One project will seek to define a range of specific features of the disorder, and to distinguish these features from other conditions such as Alzheimer disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The second project will investigate the relationship between the effects of TBI and various features of CTE, with the aim of identifying markers to help diagnose the degenerative effects of TBI.

    The pilot grants are intended to support initial research into concussion. Grants were awarded to the following projects:

    • development of a portable eye tracking device that can be used on the sidelines to diagnose concussion and monitor severity;
    • investigation into the function of adolescents who have been cleared to return to play and the role of microRNAs as potential biomarkers for concussions and recovery;
    • evaluation of Spotlight, a mobile application designed to track progress of an individual from the time of concussion until return to play;
    • analysis of gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) levels, a chemical important to brain function, in adolescents who have and have not suffered concussion;
    • research into whether somatosensory information processing could serve as a biomarker for concussion and recover in youth aged 13–17; and
    • study of the changes in metabolites in mice after concussion and whether the changes can be revealed in blood samples.

    The Sports Health Program is a partnership between NIH, the NFL, and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. In 2012, the NFL donated over $30 million to the NIH Foundation for research into injuries that affect athletes.

    Early Exercise Can Reduce Depression in Parkinson Patients

    A pilot study has found that exercise can be an effective way to reduce depression symptoms among individuals with Parkinson disease (PD), particularly if the exercise program is implemented as soon as possible after diagnosis.

    The project followed 31 patients who were randomized into an early start group or a delayed start group. While researchers found no substantial differences in scores on the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale among the groups, the patients in the early start group scored "significantly better" on the Beck Depression Inventory. The research was published in Parkinsonism & Related Disorders (abstract only available for free).

    Early exercise is an important component in managing the symptoms and side effects of PD. APTA offers several resources on the role physical therapy can play in treatment, including a PT's Guide to Parkinson Disease, a Move Forward radio broadcast on the topic, and evidence-based practice research that can be accessed through PTNow.

    Foundation Researcher Receives Major Grant Award

    A former Foundation for Physical Therapy (Foundation) grant recipient has been awarded a $1.7 million grant to continue work she began with Foundation funding.

    Kristin Archer, PT, DPT, PhD, assistant professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, was awarded $1.7 million Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) grant on December 17 for her project "Comparative Effectiveness of Postoperative Management for Degenerative Spinal Conditions." Pilot information for this project was funded in part by the Foundation's 2011 Magistro Family Foundation Research Grant.

    Archer's research is focused on patients recovering from lumbar spine surgery and will compare 2 approaches delivered over the phone: cognitive-behavioral-physical therapy (CBPT) emphasizing self-management and an education program about postoperative recovery. The study will identify important patient outcomes, the impact of CBPT on these patient-centered outcomes, and the ways in which CBPT can improve outcomes in various patient subgroups. A project summary is available at the PCORI website.

    The project is one of 82 grants recently announced by PCORI, which is providing $191 million in funding for a range of work focused on patient outcome research.

    PCORI is a nonprofit organization authorized by Congress as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The organization's research is intended to give patients a better understanding of the prevention, treatment, and care options available, and the science that supports those options.

    New Resource Helps Explain Medicare - Medicaid Dual Eligibility

    Physical therapists who work with patients who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid now have a tool that could help them navigate through some the complexities of dual eligibility, thanks to a guide jointly created by Medicaid and Medicare commissions.

    Though it may not have the most exciting title, the Beneficiaries Dually Eligible for Medicare and Medicaiddata book (.pdf) could prove to be a useful read for providers treating individuals in this special category. Individuals who are dually eligible tend to have multiple chronic conditions and difficulties with activities of daily living that can complicate the coordination of care.

    The joint analysis was created by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) and the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC), and is available at both agencies' websites.