Dr. Ann McKee – Congress Confronts NFL on Denial of Link Between Player Concussions and Brain Injury

Retired pro football players have several times the national rate of Alzheimer’s disease and other memory afflictions than normal populations. Former players between the age of 30-40 experience memory-related  diseases at a rate of 19 times of that of men who didn’t play, according to an analysis of a study by the New York Times.

Last week the House Judiciary Committee confronted the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, accusing the league of neglect. Besides Goodell, the witness panel featured former players such as retired New York Giant standout Tiki Barber, Merrill Hoge, George Martin and Gay Culverhouse, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneers team president.

Goodell and the league were quick to point out that the studies did not prove an actual link between concussions and Alzheimer’s or other head related diseases. The NFL’s conclusion was reached despite the New York Times analysis, an NFL survey with similar findings and several other corroborating independent studies.

Their interpretation of the studies might be influenced by the league’s revenue, which totals nearly seven billion dollars. But it is unfortunately at the expense of 2,000 current players and more than 10,000 retirees associated with the NFL. Not to mention its effect on the millions of players at the college, high school and youth levels, reports the New York Times.

49797810 Dr. Ann McKee – Congress Confronts NFL on Denial of Link Between Player Concussions and Brain Injury Photo

Head first accidents on the field (courant.com)

Among the medical expert witnesses were researchers from Boston University School of Medicine center for studying types of brain trauma.

Dr. Ann McKee one of Boston University’s representatives, showed the committee images of brains of dead football players.

She testified that all 11 of the former collegiate and professional football players she had examined showed “severe” signs of degradation. Before they died, many of the players had suffered from memory loss and emotional disturbances.

“We need to take radical steps to change the way football is played,” said Dr. McKee.

According to Vitals.com, McKee received her medical degree at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and completed her specialty training at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Missing from the two panels of witnesses was Dr. Ira Casson, the co-chairman of the NFL’s committee. Casson has been criticized for discrediting all the outside research and his own role in the league’s study has been questioned. Independent experts believe the results are flawed by conflicts of interest, statistical and sampling problems.

Mr. Goodell agreed to turn over all medical records to Congress for independent review, but in an interview after his testimony he said he would not release medical records because of confidentiality issues.

This lack of cooperation will continue to harm not only players on powerhouse professional teams such as the Giants, Jets and Patriots. Sadly experts have noted that many concussions particularly at lower levels of football go undiagnosed, meaning that many players who never make it to the pros face serious health consequences as well.

The needs of the millions of players at all levels, including college, high school and youth, need to be addressed. Experts feel more can and should be done by changing rules reducing contact to the head and neck; teaching better tackling techniques and developing new equipment, especially better helmets.

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