MATT LAUER: It is a startling number. More than 244,000 U.S. troops have returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries, an issue that is front and center for the NFL, a league dealing with the problem of concussions among many of its current and former players. The league is now teaming up with the U.S. Army and National Institutes of Health to research ways to limit these types of injuries. Roger Goodell is commissioner of the NFL. Dr. Story Landis is the director of the NIH's Neurology Institute, and General Odierno is the chief of staff of the Army. Good morning to all of you. It's nice to see you.
General, that's a huge number, 244,000 returning military personnel with these brain injuries. I know the seriousness of those injuries varies from person to person, but it's a problem that has to be addressed.
GEN. ODIERNO: Absolutely, and one of the problems we have are soldiers coming forward first to say I have a problem. And so one of the things we're really focusing on is making sure that the same qualities -- mental toughness,physical toughness,dedication to mission accomplishment -- does not impede people from saying "I have a problem and I need to get help." That's why this initiative is important to us. We're now putting sensors in helmets, our kevlar helmets for the first time. About 7,000 soldiers have those in their helmets. As we're collecting more and more data, we're learning more and more information, but we have a lot of work to do yet.
LAUER: And Commissioner, most people will not associate players' injuries with what our men and women in uniform are dealing with in these wars but the problem is great for you as well. 190 concussions in 320 games last year. Is that why this is the perfect partnership?
ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: Well, we have a long history with the military. General Odierno and I have spent a lot of time talking about our cultures, and what it is to make sure that our people stand up and say "I have an injury," and it's okay to ask for help, or to have your teammate or yourfellow soldier to say "I've got an injury, so I need to get the proper medical attention." One of the big issues is making sure anyone who has this injury gets proper medical attention.
LAUER: And you're announcing a grant this morningto help research the problem.
GOODELL: We are. We're going to be funding $30 million with the foundation for the NIH to fund new research that will hopefully help and accelerate understanding of brain injuries. Help not only athletes in the NFL but athletes throughout sports and the military.
LAUER: Doctor, what can that kind of money accomplish?
DR. STORY LANDIS, NIH: It can accomplish a huge amount. I'd like to start off by saying that not only is traumatic brain injury an issue in the military and in professional sports but it also affects people of all different ages. It's the leading cause of death and disability in young children and has increasing impact in older adults. So with this generous gift from the NFL to the foundation for the National Institutes of Health, NIH-funded investigators will be able to determine what causes brain damage after traumatic brain injury. They'll be able to find out who's at risk, who isn't at risk, to develop diagnostics, even to help with having people come forward if you had a diagnosis, that you can say "I have a problem." And to alsothink about prevention and potentially even treatments. So we're very excited about this.
LAUER: It's an interesting partnership. General, thanks for being here. Appreciate that. Doctor, good luck. And Commissioner, it's nice to see you.
Today (NBC), 7:16 AM
September 5, 2012