NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell imagines a day in the not-too-distant future when players could be checked to determine whether their genetic makeup leaves them more likely to develop brain disease.
They then might be told to switch to a less dangerous position — or give up football entirely.
"In talking to the medical experts over several years, I think there's a predisposition to most injuries, particularly to the brain, or to brain disease," Goodell said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday. "So we do want to know what those biomarkers are."
Goodell also envisions players being required — with the union's OK, of course — to wear helmets containing sensors to detect hits that cause concussions. Those helmets might be lighter and "less of a weapon" than today's, he said.
Those are the kinds of advances the NFL and General Electric are hoping to produce in a partnership that could funnel up to $60 million over four years to research on head injuries and possible improvements to helmets.
"Imaging of the brain, studying the brain, is still pretty far behind the study of cancer, heart disease, things like that," GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said. "I look at this as a catalyst in terms of where the technology will go. ... I would say you're going to start seeing really strong activities almost immediately."
Goodell, who spoke to the AP after a news conference at a GE office building, agreed about the importance of quick progress.
"We weren't looking at a long timetable," he said. "We wanted to see results quickly."
Not long after Goodell was forced to defend the league's concussion policies at a congressional hearing in October 2009, the NFL began making changes. Among them: new return-to-play guidelines; changing the co-chairmen of the NFL's committee on concussions; and, expected for next season, putting independent neurological experts on sidelines during games.
Thousands of former players are suing the league and its teams, saying that for years the NFL did not do enough to protect players from concussions. Next month, a federal judge is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the league's motion to dismiss.