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Some thoughts on last week's NFL brain injury medical committee meeting

Perhaps, the National Football League is being to get it. 

Last week, the NFL’s new Medical Committee on the Head, Neck and Spine (formally known as the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee), held a closed door meeting [these type of meetings to discuss the health and safety of players always cause me to be suspicious]  at Johns Hopkins University.

However, following this meeting, the new committee co-chairs, Dr's. Richard G. Ellenbogen and Hunt Batjer held a press conference in which they are reported as saying they understand the need for a “culture change” in professional football when it comes to concussions and further understand the important role model that the NFL and its players have on all youth sports.

It's not surprising that they have come to this realization give the skepticism voiced by members of Congress on the bona fides of the NFL and its committee during the prior week's continued NFL hearings. 

Reportedly, Dr. Ellenbogen said, "The youth athletes are looking to the professionals as role models, and the professionals now realize if they don't do it right, the kids aren't going to do it right,"   While I have been saying this for years, it is encouraging to hear that the NFL and its medical committee is finally getting on the same page.

News reports also indicate that NFL head, Roger Goodell also understands the importance of addressing concussions and the health and safety of players and is granting the doctors and their committee independence from the league. 

In the past, the medical committee was controlled by doctors who also received financial remuneration from teams and whose qualifications to address the important issues surrounding brain damage were highly questionable. It’s about time that this important committee be controlled by independent and objective experts.

The NFL has toughened its procedures governing when players may return from concussions. In December, the league notified teams that players suffering concussions must not return to games or practice that day, and must be given a neurological test.

However, the league needs to understand that it’s not only multiple concussions that are of concern.  Each and every concussion, including the first has the ability to cause permanent and life long injury to a player.  It’s not enough to address the issue of multiple concussions.  All concussions need to be taken seriously. WHEN IN DOUBT, KEEP THEM OUT must be the attitude of the league and all teams.

I again suggest that not only player’s need to be informed about the serious and life long consequences of concussions and brain injury, but spouses, parents and significant others need to be educated as well.  You cannot rely upon the veracity of player to indicate to a team physician that they are symptom free.  You need the input of disinterested but concerned family and friends.



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as a RN with a background and specalization in traumtic brain injuries,I couldnt agree more, in public awarness and education in concussions, what to look for, the affects on the brain, and the most important : Prevention.I often hear that it is "just a bump on the head" No its not, and sometimes these comments are coming from health care providers also. education starts from home, knowing the risks of contact sports, schools and community centers could also benefit from experts and health care providers that deal with TBI's. What I do is to inform and update nursing personnal, in the care of the traumatic brain injured individulal, and most of the time it is the secondary brain injury that resulted from either a "bump on the head" or an undiagnoisd concussion.

George Visger

I hope they take the NFL brain injury issue more serious than when I played. I developed hydrocephalus (water on the brain) during my second season with the 49ers in 81 (Super Bowl), just weeks after a knee surgery. I underwent emergency VP Shunt brain surgery at Stanford in Sept of that season, and subsequently had two more emergency brain surgeries and given last rites just 4 months after we won Super Bowl XVI. The 49ers denied I was injured playing for them and I had creditors on me for 5 years till I successfully sued for workers comp. For a look into life after the NFL go to links on my life the last 28 enjoyable years.

NPR: A Brain, A Life, Battered by Football

George Visger
SF 49ers 80 & 81
Survivor of 8 football related emergency VP Shunt brain surgeries

George Visger

Great job!! You mentioned many subjects with which I deal with when I conduct Coaches Concussion Clinics and my motivational/goal setting talks at schools etc. Too many people making decisions with you players lives have never had the courage to play a contact sport themselves (contact sports includes soccer, as an estimated 25,000 jr high and high school players sustain concussions yearly).

The old days of holding up two fingers and if you guessed within one you were good to go, has got to end. Repeated trauma to the brain from hits may not cause a concussion per se, but the neuro transmittors get stretched and start dying in 10, 20, 30 years. I am 51 years old, a Wildlife Biologist/Environmental Consultant by trade, and have been taking TWO dementia meds to try to help with my short term memory deficits (Arricept and Namenda). Just saw my Dr today and not getting the results we hoped for so will try a new plan. I am scheduled for a follow up exam with Dr Amen in July (he did a 3 day exam on me Oct 2009, and said by looking at my SPECT scans its a miracle I can even function, much less be involved in several businesses).

People need to be educated on the long term effects of even mild trauma to the brain.

George Visger
SF 49ers 80 & 81
Survivor of 8 football related brain surgeries

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