Roger Goodell announces the NFL will hire a new chief medical officer

Commissioner Roger Goodell

Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

NEW YORK — The NFL will be hiring a full-time chief medical officer to work with team medical staffs, the players’ union and league committees.

In a letter sent to the 32 team presidents and obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell said the chief medical officer also would work with "the broader independent scientific and medical communities."

The new hire will replace Dr. Eliot Pellman, who is retiring after 30 years in the league. Much of the early criticism of the NFL regarding its handling of concussions was directed at Pellman, who once famously downplayed links between head trauma and football.

Pellman is a rheumatologist with little expertise in head and brain trauma research, but he was involved in the formulation of the NFL’s concussion policies.

Goodell also told the teams that the NFL must demonstrate strong leadership on health and safety "and that our players and fans need to trust in us."

"In recognition of this priority (on player health and safety) and the increasing complexity of our work, we intend to hire a highly credentialed physician to serve as Chief Medical Officer and work in the league office on a full-time basis," Goodell wrote.

A search will begin this week and will be conducted by a panel of health and medical experts led by Dr. Betsy Nabel, the league’s chief health and medical adviser.

Others on the search panel will include Dr. Rob Heyer, president of the NFL Physicians Society and team internist for the Carolina Panthers; Ronnie Barnes, senior vice president and head trainer for the New York Giants; Dr. Robert Cantu of Boston University;, and Peter Foss, of G.E. Healthcare. The panel will work closely with the league’s Jeff Miller.

Nabel was hired in February 2015, but she also serves as president of Brigham and Women’s Health Care.