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Repairing football brain injuries through neurologic technology

Brain mapping, training helps reverse damage
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Posted at 11:30 AM, Dec 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-14 12:08:27-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A Southern California company said their brain mapping and training technology can help repair the damage done to the brain by sports like football.

Neurologics is working with the NFL Trust and the Tulane University Center for Sport to see how effective its treatment can be. Some initial football patients report improved focus, memory, and attention to detail. They also say some of the damage they've endured from the sport is starting to heal.

"Once you realize that there's a solution and you realize that there's a difference between where you are and where you were, it's pretty nice," Former NFL Linebacker Jordan Zumwalt said.

Neurologics' treatment begins with a brain scan that maps 293 domains in the brain. That sets a baseline of how a patient's brain functions and what areas need improvement.

"We look at the brain under task at the speed of actual thought," Karen Odell-Barber, the founder of Neurologics said. "If you think of the brain as a big bundle of wires, we look at the brain at the wiring level for diagnostic purposes for imaging purposes."

After the scan, patients undergo personalized training sessions with a coach. The sessions are similar to video games, but Odell-Barber said the training results in "true cognitive repair" and is proven to improve IQ by an average of 15-18 points.

"It opens new neural pathways," she said. "That can restore them, sometimes not even to just baseline function, but to a better function than they were before."

The treatment began as a way to help people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. After working with Zumwalt, Odell-Barber says they realized it can also help with sports injuries.

Zumwalt believes this could be a game-changer for football, which has struggled to address brain injuries, concussions, and CTE.

"Think about it like a muscle," he says. "If your knee hurts, you get a bum knee or tear an ACL, and you need to recover. It's a similar concept for your brain."

He and Odell-Barber are working together to show the NFL and football players at other levels the benefits of Neurologics' treatment.

"I love football. I love the game. I love everything about it," Zumwalt said. "My desire is to allow football to be football and for people to love football and be able to do what you'd like to do on the field without guilt."

"I'm not here to say that we can't play football," Odell-Barber said. "We know these guys are like used cars, and they have miles on them when they arrive. And we want to know how many miles do they have when they're here."

The treatment costs as much as $20,000. Odell-Barber said Neurologics is working with insurance companies for coverage that can bring down the cost. Zumwalt believes it should be available to athletes at all levels.

"There are people out there that have some head trauma and are completely unaware of what's going on. Now there's a new solution for them," he said.