It hasn’t quite reached the scorched Earth response of the NFL after the New York Times article in March, but the league is taking an aggressive stance after a Congressional report suggested they were trying to steer concussion research.
In a letter sent to Representative Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen (who co-chair’s the league’s head, neck and spine committee) continued to defend his research, and disputes the notion that the league steered research funds to get the result they wanted.
“Dear Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Pallone,” the letter read. “Yesterday a report from the minority staff of your committee was released to the media alleging that I and others participated in an effort to influence an NIH grant selection process. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, I was not afforded the simple opportunity to make this plain to your staff members, despite the fact that my contact information was provided to them and my willingness to engage with them on any question was made clear to them. I find this basic lack of fairness, combined with the disregard for the opinions and reputations of the medical professionals named in this report, to be unworthy of the important committee that you lead. At a minimum, I hope you can understand my profound objection to this maligning without so much as the courtesy of a direct question to me by your staff.
“To be clear, I am not and never have been paid by the NFL nor have I ever received funding through the research grant dollars in question. I am a physician on the front lines of this issue, treating kids and counseling parents every day on understanding concussions and repetitive head injury. I feel passionately that there is urgent work ahead to fill the tremendous gap in funding and support on this issue.
“Medical professionals can and always will discuss priorities and debate protocols; that is healthy and appropriate. I believe strongly that there is a vital need for a longitudinal study that tracks the impact concussions have over many years. We need to better understand the long-term risks of traumatic brain injury. I made clear to the NIH that this should be a priority. The advancement of science and research in this field is of critical importance – and we must work to together to understand what it is telling us and how we must adapt accordingly.
“I regret that your minority staff report did nothing to further momentum on these goals and the understanding of these important scientific questions.”
The league’s response had previously been measured, but it’s clear they’re beginning to take the offensive again, at the suggestion they’re trying to achieve the result they want by virtue of money.