Abbott, Brain Injury Association of America launch concussion coalition with Rebel Wilson

Medtech giant Abbott along with the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) is joining forces with actress Rebel Wilson to boost the “invisible injury” that is concussion.

Abbott, which markets the rapid blood test i-STAT TBI for traumatic brain injury and concussion, is working with the BIAA to co-found a coalition of nearly 20 brain injury and athletic advocacy groups known as Concussion Awareness Now.

Actress, comedian, writer and producer Rebel Wilson, who sustained a concussion while on set producing and acting in a movie, has been tapped as Abbott's celebrity spokesperson. “People often believe only athletes and stunt doubles get concussions,” Wilson said in a press release. “But in reality, concussions are almost always everyday accidents like whacking my head when I fell down a hill.”

It was Abbott and Concussion Awareness Now that in fact approached Rebel, explained Abbott medical director Beth McQuiston, M.D., in an interview, adding that it was a natural fit “given her humor and relatable story.”

“Rebel was excited to join our cause to help people learn from her experience,” she adds. She also has a new movie coming out this week—"The Almond and the Seahorse"—which tells the story of people impacted by traumatic brain injury.

The campaign is raising awareness that most concussions happen in everyday accidents, but more than half of people who think they may have a concussion fail to seek diagnosis.

While Abbott is not running any branding for the campaign, it clearly would want to boost awareness and thus increase diagnosis for concussions, as this would open up a larger market for its i-STAT TBI plasma test.

Concussion Awareness Now will work on educational campaigns and “other awareness efforts focused on seeking care for a possible concussion,” Abbott said in the release. 

McQuiston added some more specifics on these new campaigns in the interview, saying: “We [the Coalition] will create public service announcement-style campaign efforts to debunk myths about concussions and to educate on the importance of getting a possible brain injury checked.

“We’ll be providing concussion information on social media, via advertising, on our website and will continuously work with our nearly 20 coalition members to identify additional opportunities to reach as many people as possible.”

The idea is to get away from those old sayings when someone hits their head, such as “tough it out” and “walk it off.” “While that kind of direction may be appropriate for a skinned knee, it’s never the answer for a potential brain injury,” Abbott adds in its release.

The coalition’s aims coalesce with Abbott’s marketing for its TBI test, which won FDA approval last January and became the first device of its kind.

On the official marketing page for the device, Abbott notes that while concussions from sporting events are on the decline, slips and falls are still occurring, “which means there is still a need for concussion diagnosis and treatment.”

It works as a rapid hand-held blood test, indicated to find those with mild TBIs including concussions. Tests results are available within 15 minutes after plasma is placed in the test cartridge. The idea of the device is that it can slash wait times in the ER and cut the need for CT scans.

Abbott is also working on a whole blood test, which would eliminate the separation step—with the ultimate goal being a portable test that can be run anywhere, such as on the sidelines at sporting events.