NFL Concussion Experts Resign

In a week where two leading quarterbacks were sidelined by concussions, it is interesting to note that the co-chairmen of the league’s committee on brain injuries have resigned. The two, Dr. Ira Casson and Dr. David Viano, had been criticized by the NFL Players Association as being biased in their evaluation of research about the long term impact of concussions in NFL players. The independent and league-sponsored studies linked NFL careers with a heightened risk for dementia and cognitive (thought) decline. Dr. Casson had criticized the studies, saying the sample size was too small and that more research needed to be done before an assessment could be made. According to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who announced the resignations, the committee on brain injuries was formed to evaluate specific types of plays to evaluating possible rules changes “to reduce head impacts and related injuries in a game setting.” We’re all for that!


“Football isn’t a contact sport, it’s a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport.”
– Vince Lombardi, professional football coach (in Sports in America) by J. Michener

Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

1 Comment

  1. Erich Wieshofer

    October 19, 2014 at 10:14 am

    It is always disappointing when doctors are accused of bias, especially when the bias is against action that could potentially save the lives of thousands of current and future professional football players. Physicians are seen as the standard of morality in the community. They are individuals who put aside all prejudice in order to provide quality care to a broad spectrum of people. In the case of Dr. Casson and Dr. Viano, it is apparent that the world of cut-throat capitalism has poisoned their sense of fair judgment and prudence.
    NFL teams operate like any other business. They have employees, shareholders and customers and do all they can to operate at a profit. NFL franchises also spend a lot of money on public relations in order to build their brand to sell tickets and attain more lucrative media deals. Therefore, it behooves these teams and the league to do all they can to bury bad press. In this case the bad press is tied to former players coming forward and declaring that the league did not do enough to protect them from repeated concussions. It has been shown that repeated head trauma over a career can lead to a plethora of degenerative neurological complications. Sufferers often report feelings of depression, aggression and disorientation. More damaging to the NFL brand than the players coming forward are popular former players committing suicide due to their condition. The image of the NFL has thus been tainted by a long history of brutal negligence and self-interest. Their perpetual ignorance of repeat concussion victims has damaged the league’s reputation more than a forthright apology and recognition of their own misconduct ever could.
    In order for the NFL to rescue its brand and resolve their PR concerns, there must be a charge led by team doctors to improve the diagnosis and treatment of concussed players. As moral leaders in society physicians must put individual health over financial considerations. They must lead innovation to protect players and put forth new progressive measures to ensure player safety across the league. A recent example of this comes from professional soccer in Europe where players suspected of a concussion are taken off the field immediately where they are examined by a team doctor who not only tests the player for concussion symptoms but also watches film of the on-field incident. Additionally, the doctor has the final word on whether the player can continue in lieu of the manager. Putting more power in the hands of the team physicians will lead to improved player care and thus avoid future complications and lawsuits. If the NFL adopts a tougher stance on concussions and publicizes their support of new standards in player evaluations it will benefit from a rejuvenated workforce and an influx of young players optimistic about the league’s dedication to player safety and innovation.

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