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New NFL Concussion Doctors Sacked By Congressional Committee

By all the press accounts, it looks like the new co-chairmen of the NFL’s committee on head injuries fumbled their first appearance at a Congressional hearing on football and concussions Monday. 

One would have thought that Dr. Richard Ellenbogen and Dr. Hunt Batjer would have been fully prepared for a grilling by the House Judiciary Committee at the forum in Manhattan. Instead, they were skewered by both Congressmen Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., and Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y. 

Sanchez accused the two co-chairmen of sounding “like the same old NFL,” according to The New York Times Tuesday. And that remark wasn’t meant as a compliment.

 And Weiner was obviously annoyed when he threw out a question to the panel that was testifying, asking if someone could talk about helmet technology. But no one, not even Ellenbogen or Batjer, volunteered a word. Needless to say, that didn’t go over big with Weiner.

Ellenbogen and Batjer are meant to represent the NFL’s fresh start, and newly aggressive tack, in terms of dealing with player concussions. In March they replaced Dr. Ira Casson and Dr. David Viano on what the NFL is now calling its Head, Neck and Spine Committee. 

Casson and Viano stepped down from the committee last November, just a month after congressional hearings blasted the alleged inaccuracy  of research that the league had commissioned, as well as the NFL’s overall concussion policy.

At Monday’s hearing, according to the Associated Press, Weiner was not happy to learn that Casson and Viano were still involved in league research on helmets.

“Two so discredited people were part of these studies,” Weiner said,  his voice rising, said AP. “You have years of an infected system that needs to be cleaned up. The idea is to prevent injuries in the first place and there is a blind spot if you are not involved with helmets.”

 During his testimony, Ellenbogen noted that NFL Commissoner Roger Goodell last week sent letters to 44 governors askng them to pass bills based on Washington State’s so-called Lystedt laws in their states. The concussion-protection law is named after a high school football player who went back to the field after sustaining a concussion, and then developed life-threatening problems.

During Monday’s session Sánchez remained concerned about retired players, with studies finding that they are  reporting dementia and other cognitive disease at a greater rate than the national population. She didn’t understand why the NFL’s concussion committee member could use data collected by Casson that others had  discredited

 Ellenbogen maintained that the league is committed to studying the cognitive woes of retired players and has a new NFL injury database.

As The Times noted, Monday’s testimony by Tammy Plevretes seemed to have a strong impact on Weiner. Plevretes’s son  Preston was badly injured while playing football for La Salle University in 2005. The Plevretes family alleged that the school didn’t have a proper policy for dealing with concussions, and the family eventually settled a lawsuit against La Salle last fall for $7.5 million, according to The Times.

Preston, who was in the audience during Monday’s hearing, suffered permanent brain injuries and now can barely talk  or walk.

“This is not a broken arm or a broken leg,” The Times quoted Tammy Plevretes, in tears, saying at the hearing. “This is a broken life.”


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