Health IT

Harvard teams with NFLPA on ResearchKit app for football injuries

Thursday, the NFLPA and Harvard’s Football Players Health Study released TeamStudy, an iPhone app built on ResearchKit framework.

NFL football injury

With so much attention on concussions and other football injuries — from youth leagues to the pros — Harvard University and the National Football League Players Association are turning to Apple’s ResearchKit to understand long-term health implications of playing the game.

Thursday, the NFLPA and Harvard’s Football Players Health Study released TeamStudy, an iPhone app built on ResearchKit framework. Former NFL players helped Harvard-affiliated Sage Bionetworks design the app, but anyone can participate in TeamStudy.

TeamStudy will collect data on such factors as memory, balance, heart health, pain and mobility so researchers can gain better insights into short-term and long-term health effects of playing football. The Football Players Health Study is looking for participants from all walks of life in order to establish a control group.

“By bringing the Football Players Health study to this app, we’re able to easily capture data from participants all over the nation, enabling us to better understand the everyday experiences of former NFL players,” said TeamStudy principal investigator Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, chief of cognitive neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Mobility is key to advancing the research. “Traditionally, we study participants in one location, failing to capture their real-life, day-to-day experience — for example, understanding things like pain and daily activity. Using ResearchKit, we will be able to quickly identify patterns that could lead to treatments for health conditions faced by former NFL players,” Pascual-Leone added in a prepared statement.

It’s more than just concussions that they’ll be studying.

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“For years, we’ve asked ourselves these questions: ‘Should my joints have this much pain? Is my memory normal? Should I be concerned about my heart health?’” said former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Dat Nguyen.” TeamStudy will allow the Harvard researchers to answer these questions and share the facts with all of us.”

Nguyen was one of the retired players to settle a concussion lawsuit against the NFL last year for nearly $1 billion. This week, the NFL for the first time acknowledged that football can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy, prompting a lawyer for the players to ask a court to throw out the settlement.

Photo: Justin Aller/Getty Images