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What's Wrong With Elliot Pellman and The NFL Policy on Concussions

Tonight at 9:00 P.M. I am going to be interviewed by Bryan McGovern and Jerry Rice on Sirius NFL Radio Channel 124 "Late Hits" Broadcast on the announcement made today that Elliot Pellman has resigned as the head of the NFL's concussion committee.

The focus of our discussion will be on what's wrong with the NFL's policy on concussions. 

In short, what's wrong is that the NFL really does not have a unified policy when it comes to concussions.  Each team is allowed to make their own determinations as to when a player who has suffered a head injury can return to play.  The league has no formal guidelines for each team to follow.

Further the league does not mandate preseason screening of each and every player to establish a base line of their neuropsychological status so that a comparison can be made after a concussion takes place to see how the athlete is now performing. This preseason base line evaluation is the gold standard for evaluation of a concussed athlete's current condition and the failure of each and every team to utilize this computer generated software is ludicrous.  My research reveals that only two thirds of NFL teams use preseason testing which they then can compare to testing done after a concussion takes place.

Any league or team that thinks that it's OK to allow a concussed player to return to play in the same game ought to have their own head examined.  It makes absolutely no medical sense or common sense to risk further injury to the athlete in the same game.  Prudence requires that the player be carefully assessed by trained professionals off the field.  There is no adequate way of determining the condition of the player on the field to justify a return to play decision. 

Finally and most importantly the opinions of the NFL and Pellman that repeated concussions and the cumulative effect of these multiple concussions does not put players at increased risk is contrary to the opinion of all the leading experts on sport's concussions in the world.

So why do I care?  Because in my role as President of the Brain Injury Association of New York State and as a parent of children engaged in athletic activities I am concerned about the wrong message that parents, coaches and children receive from the NFL's misguided approach to concussion management.  When high school and collegiate athletes see that these professional football players are allowed to return to play, then the message is implicitly sent that concussions are no big deal and something that can be merely shaken off.  Nothing is further from the truth.

I have seen far to many children whose lives have been permanently ruined because they were allowed to prematurely return to sporting activity following a concussion.  I have spoken with many professional players who can no longer manage their lives because of the effects of repeated concussions.

Last year I chaired a conference which was sponsored by the Brain Injury Association of New York State and held at Madison Square Garden on concussions and sports.  The leading national experts participated. Although I invited Elliot Pellman to participate and asked the NFL to provide support for this conference, I was flatly turned down.

Later this year, we will hold another sports and concussion conference in New York City.  Hopefully, the new directors of the NFL concussion committee will participate.  If they chose to do so, they will be warmly welcomed so that all preventable brain injuries will be prevented. 

The best cure for a brain injury is prevention!

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