NFL Grant Enables U. Miami & Pittsburgh & Neuro Kinetics Study

by | Nov 13, 2014


“Crisis for Our Military & Athletes”

MIAMI & PITTSBURGH (November 13, 2014) – A $500,000 grant from the National Football League (NFL) will enable the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and medical equipment manufacturer Neuro Kinetics Inc. (NKI) to test NKI’s I-Portal® PAS, a diagnostic device for early and accurate detection of concussions.

The NFL grant, one of seven announced separately today by the football league and cosponsors Under Armour and GE Ventures as part of the Head Health Challenge II, was awarded to the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Michael Hoffer, M.D., professor of otolaryngology, based on promising data collected by NKI in collaboration with Dr. Hoffer.

Carey Balaban, Ph.D., professor of otolaryngology, neurobiology, bioengineering, and communication science and disorders, and vice provost, at the University of Pittsburgh will collaborate in the research project.

Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), also known as concussion, is a major public health issue that not only is a common injury in modern warfare, but is also one of the most common causes of emergency room visits by adolescents and young adults. One of the most important issues in treating mTBI involves initial diagnosis and determination of appropriate return to work or play. The current method of testing patients involves a cumbersome battery of tests that are only available at major medical centers.

The collaborative work of Drs. Hoffer and Balaban, with Neuro Kinetics, aims to accelerate the development of NKI’s I-Portal PAS as the portable diagnostic device has show great promise in accurately assessing mTBI.

The device and testing protocols to be studied have been developed by Neuro Kinetics, a 30-year-old medical device manufacturer that has long been a world leader in providing diagnostic solutions for neurotologists, audiologists and others for the detection of vestibular, equilibrium and related issues.

NKI’s core technology, called I-Portal®, gathers precise measurements of how eyes move in response to a range of stimuli. By measuring post-incident eye movements against non-concussed controls, medical practitioners are expected to gain an objective tool in the diagnosis of concussions.

The I-Portal PAS concussion diagnosis device features a goggle with imbedded eye tracking and stimulus display. The device is portable and can be readily used at a sports venue following a possible concussion-causing incident, as well as near the battlefield.  With funding support from the U.S. Department of Defense, NKI currently is conducting clinical trials using both NKI’s I-Portal NOTC (Neurotologic Test Center) and I-Portal PAS at military medical facilities.

Because dizziness and balance disorders are the single most common symptoms of mTBI, physicians have been focused on finding a pattern of balance tests that characterize a patient with mTBI. While still ongoing, the work with Neuro Kinetics has revealed that a few specific balance and oculomotor tests that help identify mTBI. The tests could be performed outside of a hospital setting with a pair of goggles.

“There’s widespread awareness that concussions are a serious crisis for both our military personnel and athletes at every level of professional and school sports,” said Dr. Hoffer, who recently retired from a 20-year career with the U.S. Navy. “It is urgent that we develop new and improved techniques for quick and accurate detection of potentially life-changing concussions. We are grateful to the NFL, Under Armour and GE for their support of this important work.”

Added Howison Schroeder, NKI president and CEO, “We are honored to continue our work with Dr. Hoffer, and to add Dr. Balaban and their colleagues in Miami and Pittsburgh to our mix. We believe our I-Portal technology shows great potential for developing a much needed practical, objective and readily deployable new diagnostic tool that can have widespread application in the military and sporting venues around the world.”

Dr. Hoffer began his research into traumatic brain injuries while in the military, with support from the Office of Naval Research, Army Medical Research and Materials Command and the Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence. The project announced today capitalizes on the University of Miami’s experience in traumatic brain injury and will feature collaboration between the Otolaryngology Department and The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.  The work also continues two decades of collaboration with Dr. Balaban.

Dr. Balaban has conducted collaborative research with the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Military Medicine Research and the Eye and Ear Foundation of Pittsburgh, and his work has been supported by sources including the National Institutes of Health, NASA and the Office of Naval Research.


Lisa Worley
Executive Director of Medical Communications
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Office: 305-243-5184
Cell: 305-458-9654

Cara Masset
Director of University News
University of Pittsburgh
Office: 412-624-4361
Mobile: 412-316-7508

John Buckman
Buckman Communications, for Neuro Kinetics, Inc.