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.