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Concussions in the NFL--A problem that won't go away

On the heals of new medical evidence that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is linked to repetitive concussive injuries in football players, the House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing for tomorrow to examine the way that the NFL handles brain injuries both for present players and those who have unsuccessfully sought disability retirement benefits.

Last week, neurologists and pathologists associated with the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy announced their findings that even college athletes who received multiple concussions were found to have this brain damage.  Dr. Ann McKee, an associate professor of neurology and pathology at the Boston University School of Medicine and co-director of the Institute is quoted in the New York Times as saying, "I've looked at more that 1,000 brains and I've never seen this in any individual living a normal life--it's only through head trauma. "

The health care crisis goes for beyond professional football players.  Evidence of this disease in younger athletes raises serious safety concerns and again raises the issue, is the NFL and their poor decisions setting the wrong example for younger athletes and leading to more brain injuries and permanent brain damage?

Here are some additional comments by Dr. McKee: "The fact that we are seeing this disease, it had a devastating effect on their lives, mow in a 42 year old who never played in the N.F.L. indicates that it's a more pervasive problem that we recognize.  What are we doing with our kids?  Are we doing enough to protect against their developing this awful condition?"

Tomorrow's hearing will focus on these issues.  Among those invited to testify are Dr. McKee and neurosurgeons, Robert Cantu and Julian Bailes who have also down extensive research on concussions and the effects of cumulative concussions in athletes.  Another witness, David Weir from the University of Michigan recently published research sponsored by the NFL that suggested that professional football players had rates of cognitive disease several time higher then the general population.

I also heard that Dr. Eleanor Perfetto, the wife of former lineman Ralph Wenzel who was institutionalized for dementia is also scheduled to testify.  I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Perfetto last week at the Sports Legacy Institute awards dinner in Boston, Mass. She has fought a long and hard battle with the NFL over this injury had has been a great friend and advocate for other football families who face the uphill battle with the league's disability plan to obtain benefits that these players are entitled to.

Chairman Conyers and the House Judiciary Committee must press NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as well as players executive director Maurice Smith on why the league continues to try to minimize this serious condition and why players who suffer from traumatic brain injury can't obtain benefits that they bargained for as part of their collective bargaining agreement.


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