$17M grant helps UT researchers study traumatic brain injuries

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Traumatic brain injuries remain a complicated puzzle. They impact everyone from high school football players to combat veterans, to drivers on the street; yet little is known about them or how to treat them. Research being done at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as other institutions, hopes to change that.

The Department of Defense has awarded $17 million to 11 U.S. public and private institutions — including UT Austin — to support advances in traumatic brain injury research. Through the study, researchers are examining patients who enter hospitals with TBI, collecting data on them.

The aim of the research is to create a very large database of information, so scientists can examine that database, ultimately leading to treatments. According to Professor of Psychology, David Schnyer, there have been more than 60 failed trials to treat TBI. He says in the past it has been treated as one disorder, when in fact, it may be many different types of traumatic brain injuries. Schnyer hopes data from car accident victims to football players will help them piece together this complex puzzle.

“There are many, many ways one can injure their brain, and so not all TBI patients are the same,” said Schnyer. “They range in severity from very mild, which we call concussion, all the way to the very severe, which puts people into a coma.”

Schnyer says it’s the lack of a major breakthrough in the history of this research, that’s motivating this study.

Former UT football player Tre Newton, knows just how damaging TBI’s can be. The football star hung up his helmet for good back in 2009, after suffering multiple concussions.

“I think the main thing was, my concussions were starting to come from lesser hits, they weren’t really the big knockout hits you’d think of someone getting a concussion from,” said Newton. “That raised a red flag among the medical staff here at Texas.”

He fell in love with the game at an early age.

“My dad played for the Dallas Cowboys so I was always around football since I was a little kid, and I just grew to love it.”

But after seven concussions, Newton got out of the game for the sake of his future.

“My dad came in, really sat me down and said, ‘I know you love the game of football, I know it’s something you’ve always been involved with since you were little, but you have to think about your future and what’s best for you’,” said Newton.

Both Newton and Schnyer look forward to the day when more knowledge brings more answers.

There are 11 sites around the country helping with this research, among them, the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

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