The greatest impact the Nebraska Cornhuskers have on football perhaps may have nothing to do with Blackshirts, the option offense or any of its five national championships.
Nebraska is one of the most iconic programs in college football, and as such, a trend setter. To that end, the Huskers taking the lead in concussion study and prevention should go a long away for the long-term good of the sport.
On Thursday, the Associated Press detailed plans for the most extensive concussion monitoring seen in college football, via the University of Nebraska Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, CB3 for short.
CB3 is part of renovations made to Memorial Stadium this off-season, and the final chapter of Tom Osborne’s legacy. It might also be the longest legacy and most important, which is saying something. Nebraska football is the iconic entity it’s become because of Osborne, so having his name attached is all the more significant.
The need for more advanced head trauma monitoring and prevention is the single most significant issue challenging college football in the near-future. Some have gone so far as to theorize concussions could effectively end the sport in our lifetime.
Through the CB3, Nebraska might have the greatest advance for the game’s biggest problem.
CB3’s main attraction is a type of magnetic resonance imaging machine — known as a functional MRI — that tracks the brain’s blood flow. It’s hoped the $3 million scanner helps in the effort to better define what is and is not a concussion.
“There’s no question it’s going to move the dial forward,” [NCAA chief medical officer Brian] Hainline said. “The big, hoped-for dream would be, let’s have a biomarker in brain imaging. If you’re to the left of that, you’re safe; if you’re to the right of it, you’re not. That’s probably a few years out. But functional brain imaging and blood flow are going to be a very important part of that.”
The MRI machine also can be used on game days to assess injuries of all kinds.
A program with Nebraska’s clout, and Osborne’s respected name attached certainly had to help gain the NCAA’s attention. Getting the organization on board is critical.
The NCAA has no standardized policy for concussion monitoring, nor a universal guideline on handling head injuries. The result is that college football lags behind its amateur and professional counterparts. In fact, during a 2010 interview I conducted for NCAA.com, Chris Nowinski told me that college football was well behind both junior football and the NFL in concussion prevention.
If the CB3 MRI scanner can be made available to every program, college football has a universal tool through which each medical staff can measure head trauma equally, thus allowing the NCAA to establish sorely needed, clear guidelines for every member.