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Harvard uses iPhone app to study long-term damage to former NFL players

Harvard Univeristy is reportedly studying the long-term impact of injuries to former NFL players by way of an iPhone app based on Apple's ResearchKit platform.

Called TeamStudy, the app is primarily used by the ex-players, who spend about 20 minutes per week tracking memory, mobility, and pain tolerance, according to CNET. The general public is also encouraged to participate, however, as a baseline of comparison.

Over 3,000 former players are involved in the program. The research is being funded by the NFL Players Association, which is isn't officially affiliated with the league.

The NFL itself is embroiled in controversy over concussions and other head injuries. Even though it has already paid a $1 billion settlement over concealing the risks to players — and last week, a representative from the organization admitted a link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy in front of a U.S. Congressional committee — the organization has tried to downplay the situation, and dispute critical media stories. Losing the publicity battle could force the NFL to radically alter the sport and/or spend more on treatment and prevention.

ResearchKit has been available for about a year, and allows institutions to conduct medical studies via iOS and Apple Watch apps. While in some cases subjects simply enter data themselves, apps with ResearchKit can also be used to monitor sensor data or test reflexes. Various studies are tackling areas like autism, hepatitis C, postpartum depression, and sleep.

A week ago Apple revealed CareKit, which can be used to aid patients after they've left a clinic or hospital. The platform will go live in April.