Fmr. NFL Star, Renowned Neurosurgeon Partner For ‘Super Brain 2018’

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A million visitors to the Twin Cities are expected during the week leading up the Super Bowl in February.

Many of them are former players and people with ties to the NFL.

That is why Hennepin County Medical Center is teaming with the NFL Alumni Association to hold an event during that time called “Super Brain 2018.”

It’s a fundraiser for the hospital’s Brain Injury Research Lab.

They explained Thursday what is happening there to try to make football safer.

Former Gopher and Indianapolis Colts player Ben Utecht proudly sports a Super Bowl Ring — and he openly speaks about the multiple concussions he’s suffered, along with amnesia.

“I remember just, all vision completely going black, and it was almost like the sound of people’s voices around me became muffled like they were talking into a can,” Utecht said.

He is joining Dr. Uzma Samadani, a neurosurgeon at HCMC, in raising awareness about the innovative brain injury research taking place at HCMC.

ben utecht and dr uzma samadani Fmr. NFL Star, Renowned Neurosurgeon Partner For Super Brain 2018

Ben Utecht and Dr. Uzma Samadani (credit: CBS)

They are exploring new ways to diagnose brain injuries, like tracking eye movement.

Dr. Samadani, who is also a professor at the University of Minnesota, is one of the leading researchers of brain injuries in the nation.

“Because eye movements are so tightly coordinated, and coordination is something that occurs without our even thinking about it, we can assess eye movements to detect brain injury,” Samadani said.

They are also using blood tests to figure out which cells are injured, and comparing MRIs to look at different patterns of injury in the brain.

The concussion debate in the NFL is like a dark cloud that hangs over the game, but Utecht says it’s possible to be both pro-game and pro-brain.

“If we can give a message that educates but at the same time celebrates the game that we’re going to be watching five days later, I think we win,” Utecht said.

Dr. Samadani says the world will be watching Minneapolis during the Super Bowl, and it’s an incredible opportunity to raise awareness.

“We want to use that spotlight to capitalize the issues that are very important to the participants in that game,” Samadani said.

She is hoping to recruit volunteers for current and future concussion studies — ideally former NFL players and their siblings so researchers can compare them.

Super Brain 2018 is a fundraiser for brain injury research, and it’s open to the public and taking place Jan. 31 in downtown Minneapolis. Click here for more information.

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