3 Stocks Tackling Concussion Issues in Pro Athletes

The 2015 drama Concussion starring Will Smith follows the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu’s battle with the National Football League to acknowledge research on the brain damage suffered by professional football players. After examining the brains of many deceased NFL players, Dr. Omalu coined the term chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) to represent the large accumulation of tau protein on the brain causing a wide range of mental problems.

Aside from the long-term problems caused by CTE, professional football players must deal with the immediate potential for a brain hemorrhage following a concussion. Bleeding within the brain can rapidly increase intracranial pressure and cause respiratory depression or inefficient respiration. That is because the pressure buildup places pressure on the brain stem where the respiratory center resides. Emergency oxygen could be a life-saver in these cases by temporarily providing much-needed oxygen to compensate for respiratory depression or inefficient respiration until a CAT scan can be done following the concussion to rule out hemorrhaging.

The best standard of care after a concussion may be immediate emergency oxygen, an emergency room evaluation, to include a CAT scan, and 24 hours of observation if there are any doubts. Over the long-term, technologies are being developed that may be able to predict when concussions are causing major problems and ultimately prevent CTE and related issues.

Oxygen from Powder

The only way to ensure that the effects of possible hemorrhaging are ameliorated following concussions in not just football especially, but in all sports is to have emergency oxygen ubiquitously available at all games and all practice sessions. However, historically this has been a challenge because traditional oxygen tanks are not ideal for this purpose. In addition to safety hazards, and the high costs and maintenance requirements, these oxygen tanks require very specific training in order to operate. However, a new technology has come along to make it possible to have emergency oxygen available at all sporting events, creating a great emergency response tool for concussions and other medical emergencies.

OxySure Therapeutics Inc. (OTCQB: OXYS), an innovative medical device maker, has developed an FDA-cleared portable emergency medical oxygen solution called the OxySure Model 615. OxySure creates medical oxygen by combining two dry and inert (proprietary) powders. With a simple turn of a dial these powders come together to create the oxygen instantly, obviating the need for oxygen storage in compressed form (such as in a tank), and thus the device is ideal for emergency situations. Moreover, it is easy to use and can administered by any lay rescuer. The OxySure Model 615 is literally a game changer in the availability and accessibility of emergency oxygen at any football venue or practice session, or more generally for any sporting event.

While the movie Concussion focuses on football, concussions can be inflicted in many other sports. In March 2009 actress Natasha Richardson (daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and wife of actor Liam Neeson) suffered a concussion after a skiing accident. In a tragic turn of events, the concussion caused an epidural hemorrhage and Ms. Richardson died with 24 hours of the concussion.

The OxySure Model 615 costs just $349 “rescue ready.” The system uses replaceable oxygen cartridges costing only $149 each, which makes it a low-cost, high-impact tool for the NFL and college football as well as other sports organizations. In addition, a growing number of schools are adopting the technology with brain injuries affecting more than 775,000 children and adolescents treated in hospital emergency rooms for sports-related injuries each year – often athletes aspiring to reach the likes of the NFL.

Instant Testing for Concussions

Detecting a concussion can be difficult in many cases, especially when there are few physical signs of a problem, which means that many cases go undiagnosed. Even if a problem is diagnosed, confirmation requires a neurological examination, CAT scan, MRI, and/or PET scan that requires a trip to the emergency room. Many professional athletes likely return to the field – especially with so much at stake – without making a diagnosis.

Chembio Diagnostics Inc. (NASDAQ: CEMI) has developed a point-of-care diagnostic test for traumatic brain injury, including sports-related concussions. Through an agreement with Concussion Science Group, the company is leveraging a patented biomarker in combination with its DPP® platform to develop semi-quantitative or quantitative point-of-care tests. Rapid intervention could lead to lower risk and reduced incidence of secondary injuries.

The DPP® platform is a unique, rapid, point-of-care testing platform that’s ideal for multiplexing antigen and/or antibody detection. With an independent delivery mechanism for test samples and easy visual interpretation, the device interfaces with a hand-held or phone-based reader to send data to the cloud and receive an objective interpretation in a short period of time. The CSG agreement represents just one application for the unique technology.

Long-term TBI Treatment Options

MYnd Analytics Inc. (OTCQB: CNSO) is a clinical decision support company with a patented commercial neurometric platform to predict drug response for the treatment of brain disorders. Using its PEER technology, the company commenced a reimbursed 2,000 patient trial at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital focused on patients with depression PTSD, and mild traumatic brain injury.

The PEER Online platform uses a statistical analysis of EEG outputs and other patient information to generate a report that indicates the statistical likelihood of a patient’s responsiveness to classes of CNS medications, such as antidepressants, SSRIs, and fluoxetine.  Since the database is “practice based evidence” supported, doctors can be confident in their decisions with data from over 37,000 clinical endpoints across 9,900 patients.

In addition to the decision support systems, companies like Neuralstem Inc. (NASDAQ: CUR) and StemCells Inc. (NASDAQ: STEM) are working on regenerative medicine treatments for neurological diseases that could eventually be applicable to conditions like TBI.

Looking Ahead

There are many different opportunities in the concussion space as professional organizations like the NFL are forced to deal with longstanding issues. From immediate solutions like OxySure Therapeutics Inc.’s (OTCQB: OXYS) Model 615 to long-term treatment options with MYnd Analytics software, investors have a number of different options when it comes to treating concussions and dealing with the long-term impact of CTE and TBI.