Many Husker fans are excited for the opening of the expanded East Stadium this fall. The higher bowl will help hold in crowd noise, which will be aided by 6,000 new fans. New suites and premier seating will help fund the expansion and the athletic department.
But most Husker fans probably haven't paid much attention to what else is included in the east stadium project. Buzzwords like "Enhance Their Experience" and "Athletics Performance Lab" sound good, but aren't terribly specific. But even before the building is completed, word is emerging about something truly exciting and revolutionary that is under development.
Nebraska's new Center for Brain, Biology, and Behavior will be moving into their home in East Stadium this fall, but from their temporary home in Nebraska Hall, work is underway to develop a sideline tool that can diagnose a concussion in ten minutes. Concussions are becoming an ever increasing concern at all levels of football. In the past, concussions were mostly disregarded, if not actually a badge of honor. Even a topic for humor, like this old Snickers' commercial.
Well, concussions aren't funny any more. We're now learning just how serious concussions are, and how much long-term damage they do to the brain. Some people even think that the game of football might end up being banned at some point down the line.
The best way to address the problem of concussions is more research, and the first step is to actually be able to detect the concussion. Even today, it's an inexact science. Waive a finger in front of someone's eyes and watch the eye respond. Ask questions for coherence. In two years, though, Nebraska hopes to have a cap of electrodes that can be placed on the head to perform an evaluation on the sideline. And that's just the start. Diagnosing concussions could then lead to research and technology that can help reduce the risk.
The idea that football will be banned is still a stretch in my mind. It could happen, but first, we need to understand what is actually happening and address the issues. Nebraska is taking a lead role in tackling this issue... literally head-on.