NFL to meet with concussion experts Wednesday

The NFL will take another step in its concussion-treatment
efforts Wednesday during a league-sponsored seminar at Johns
Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Medical personnel from all 32 teams, other doctors and Pentagon
officials will be in attendance to hear from people Dr. Richard
Ellenbogen described as “the best experts in the country
arguably in the field of memory and cognitive issues.”

“They’re going to go over all the data and
information concerning the long-term effects of traumatic brain
injuries in football players,” Ellenbogen told me and co-host
Jim Miller on Sirius NFL Radio.

Ellenbogen and Dr. Hunt Batjer are the new co-chairmen of the
NFL’s head, neck and spine committee. Their focus is making
professional football safer while also trying to help retired
players who suffered brain damage during eras where concussion
diagnosis and treatment was neglected.

“This new committee is having a very open mind,”
Ellenbogen said. “We need to understand what the risks
are.”

Ellenbogen and Batjer are also emphasizing a split from past
research that has come under heavy fire from critics for being
inaccurate, incomplete and/or ethically compromised.
The New York Times reported Tuesday night that both
doctors requested Dr. Elliot Pellman not speak at the symposium.
Pellman, the former chairman of the NFL’s concussion
committee, has since bowed out for what was described as a family
reason.

“It’s not about Elliot,” Batjer told the
Times. “It’s about a complete severance from
all prior relationships from that committee.”

Ellenbogen and Batjer were taken to task last week when speaking
before a House Judiciary Committee. Besides having to answer for
the NFL concussion committee’s past failures, Ellenbogen and
Batjer were criticized for not having a stronger role in gathering
information about equipment like helmets.

Ellenbogen said on Sirius that his committee was
“absolutely on the cutting edge of studying helmet
technology.” That includes analyzing helmets worn by race-car
drivers and soldiers. The U.S. military also should benefit from
such research when it comes to helping treat and protect the armed
forces.

“We need to know what kind of helmet technology will
prevent concussions, but that’s only part of the
picture,” said Ellenbogen, the former chief of neurosurgery
at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“The NFL wants this committee to look at the ‘return to
play’ (rules) and dissect them carefully. They also want us
to go to the best researchers in the world and ask what is it that
we need to do that we’re not doing to protect the player and
make it safer. Sit them out longer? Are there cognitive exercises
they can do to heal better? All that (research) is being done at
the same time.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell enacted stronger concussion rules
last fall after speaking before a government committee. Players are
now prevented from re-entering a game if they have suffered a
concussion and need medical clearance before returning to the
field. Franchises also were forced to add outside neurologists for
consultation purposes.