Can An American Muslim Doctor Save The NFL?

Hamza and Husain Abdullah, the NFL football players who took last season off to complete Hajj.Photo: MPAC.org

NYU neurosurgeon Uzma Samadani's recent breakthrough may be the solution to help the NFL to detect concussions.

Multiple concussions have been of huge concerns for players and the league, alike.  Of greatest concern is the risk of developing degenerative diseases like CTE which can cause dementia and depression as well as induce suicide (A string of suicides among NFL players in recent years has highlighted this issue).

Samadani's research in tracking eye movements and their correlation with brain injuries has four patents and two scientific research papers pending.  But the company she started to commercialize the breakthrough is already pushing forward.  Samadani's team has invented, EyeBoxCNS, can run its eye-tracking algorithm in under four minutes.  There are also hopes that the algorithm could be programmed into a smartphone app, which would make the technology more readily accessible.

Samadani's project is considered "revolutionary" for several reasons.  To begin with, this test can be taken multiple times for affirmation, and provides data that can be understood by the average user.  Since it tracks eye movements rather than attempting to penetrate the brain, it is non-invasive.  This can be crucial for on-site use.  Perhaps the most important part of the breakthrough is that the technology can see tiny eye movements that doctors cannot.

The discovery came about accidentally.  Her NYU team experimented with TV-watching, which is said to be difficult for those with brain injuries, and collaborated with NYU's math department to write algorithms that would interpret the patients' eye movements during the sessions.  The researchers then discovered that the more injured the brain, the more out of sync each eye was from the other.