NFL says Maroon doesn’t speak for league on CTE

Getty Images

On Tuesday night, in reaction to the news that linebacker Chris Borland had retired after one NFL season, Steelers doctor and NFL consultant Joseph Maroon appeared on NFL Network’s NFL Total Access regarding the status of medical science and opinions as to potential brain damage from playing football.  Dr. Maroon made waves in part by expressing an opinion that the problem of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy is “over-exaggerated.”

NFL senior V.P. of health and safety policy Jeff Miller, who issued the league’s statement responding to the Borland retirement, appeared on Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio to discuss various topics regarding concussion prevention, treatment, and consequences.  At the end of the interview, which can be heard under the “Best Guests” tab in the on-demand player, I asked Miller about Dr. Marroon’s characterization of CTE.

Here’s the question:  “Dr. Joseph Maroon was on NFL Network last night talking about CTE, and at one point he said that the CTE problem is over-exaggerated.  Is that his personal belief, or is that the NFL’s position?”

“Joe Maroon doesn’t speak for the NFL, nor we for him,” Miller replied.  “He is well-known neurosurgeon who has a great deal of experience in this field, and his opinion, like those of many other neurosurgeons and neuroscientists, deserves respect.  There are obviously competing views on this.  We’ve heard perspectives from many different quarters on exactly this issue of CTE.  We hear it from the International Consensus Conference in Zurich that meets regularly, from the leading sports concussion experts around the world.  We’ve heard it from the National Academy of Sciences, the government body that looked into CTE and causation, and what the state of the science is there.

“So a lot of people have a lot of important opinions on it.  What the NFL’s position is is that we need to act conservatively to make sure that our players get the treatment that they need, that their injuries are identified when they are, and that we are acting in their best interests.  And that’s our position on the science.”

It’s still difficult not to regard Dr. Maroon’s opinions as being accepted and/or implicitly endorsed by the league.  If, after all, the NFL disagreed with his views on this issue that has become vitally important to the sport of football, the NFL would employ someone else to evaluate its players.

Ultimately, it’s important to gather, to understand, and to present in easily digestible fashion more information as to what the current state of the research is regarding the causes and the risks of CTE.  Borland decided after doing his own research that he no longer wants to play pro football.  That doesn’t make his decision, which undoubtedly is the right decision for him, automatically right for anyone else.  It also doesn’t make his decision wrong for anyone else, either.

At some point when the offseason begins to actually feel like an actual offseason, I’ll track down the current state of the medical research on these issues, presenting the information as objectively as possible — despite the reality that some will dub me a shill absent anything less than a proclamation that all football helmets should be stacked into a giant pile and burned like used tires.

32 responses to “NFL says Maroon doesn’t speak for league on CTE

  1. The numbers don’t work. Not even close.

    Maroon is all over the NFL website. UPMC, Maroon’s hospital, gets millions from the league. Roger Goodell even promoted UPMC was the state of the art concussion center.

    Richard Ellenbogen does speak for the league and he made the bikes vs. football statement at the conference in Zurich in 2012.

    If you heard it from CDC or NIH, the NFL has given them millions to buy them off. CDC even promotes Heads Up that has no scientific support. It might as well be promoting cigarettes to children.

    Who was the person or report that from a government agency supports the NFL’s statement? Is there conflicts of interest statement? How much did the NFL or its proxy pay into the agency?

    Who checked the numbers? It required two minutes to shoot down Maroon’s statements.

    If you are sincere and not just trying to conflate the issues, you should have something in the am.

  2. Life is dangerous. It often hurts and it eventually kills you.

    Might as well make a few million in your 20’s along the way.

  3. Smoking used to be good for your health and relaxing when they asked the paid doctors years ago, banging your head is good for you !!

  4. The entire issue of CTE seems to be growing in magnitude & severity with each passing season. Whether or not the NFL knew (years ago) that this would become a major issue, from both a health and a litigation standpoint, is known only to those within NFL H.O.

    I am acquainted with several doctors who work in the field, and I have attended “See The Line” conferences / dinners to hear top minds address issues & treatment that is, they think, cutting edge at this juncture. I can see parents of young kids thinking twice before enrolling them in Pop Warner football, competitive hockey, and even soccer, where concussions drive athlets out of sports in their entirety. Juvenile girls, I believe I saw on a documentary, have the 2nd highest incidences of concussive blows to the head, more from the ball than from players clashing mid-air. Each young athlete has to think about the fact that while there are organ transplants for a number of health issues, we only get 1 brain, period. Stay tuned ….

  5. Just another example of the 4th estate not doing its 1st amendment job/right to report. Rather, you prefer to make the cash the way of the National Enquirer; full of opinions and speculation. And then you counter your own arguments – anything to ‘keep it in the news’. Unfortunately for me, I still read this crap – but I’m compelled. What’s your excuse?

  6. Let’s not talk about this.

    Where is our latest Adrian Peterson trade rumor?
    It has been more than an hour.

  7. while maroon may actually be right…he’s an ego maniac for even going on the show.

  8. Ask the NFL:

    1. There are SAFER helmets on the market right now. Why are they not being used?

    2. If Wes Welker’s “Great Gazoo” helmet was safer for him, why is that not standard for everyone?

  9. Dr. Maroon is arguably the top Neurologist in the United States. Maybe the NFL should grow a pair and get behind this expert opinion.

  10. There are 2 ways to be wrong here.

    1) CTE is not (or only loosely) associated with concussions and playing football, in which case teams and players are being overly careful with respect to player health. This “mistake” would seem to have little downside.

    2) The timing and severity of CTE is directly related to a person’s history of head injuries, in which case acting like concussions have no long term effects will result in debilitating health of former players. This “mistake” would seem to have horrific implications.

    So, which mistake would you rather make. I am willing to be that Maroon’s position would be quite different if it was his long-term health that was being gambled instead of that of someone else.

  11. In 1955 the top 3 sports in America were boxing, horse racing and baseball. If the NFL does not address their CTE issue I wonder where they will be in not 60 years but 20 years. You have esteemed doctors who worked for the tobacco industry for years who said cigarettes do not cause cancer.

  12. My neighbors daughter has had two diagnosed concussions from falling and hitting her head while riding her bike, guess she needs to be on CTE watch now… Seriously people we are all gonna die, something is going to send us to our maker. Guys like Borland just need to say the real reason they left football, they lost passion for the game, they lost the want to play…

  13. No, the official league policy is that not just bicycles but also tricycles are more dangerous than playing in the NFL. And in many cases just THINKING about a wheeled vehicle is still more dangerous than playing in the NFL.

  14. Every time I sit on my couch. Watching my beloved Ravens… that I love sooo much.

    I see somebody get a hit. Stays on the turf for a moment. Gets up, and you can clearly see he doesn’t know where he is…

    I am not a doctor.
    I have no scientific data to prove anything.

    BUT, i’d bet….

    If that keeps happening to that guy, I know, he won’t have a healthy brain. Healthy life.

  15. Why do we need studies to tell us that bashing your head against a hard object will lead to brain injuries? Maybe those needing the studies to show them this are the ones we should be worried about.

  16. Maroon must be a Republican. They don’t believe in scientific evidence. If facts go against their beliefs, can the facts.

  17. vincentbojackson says:
    Mar 19, 2015 7:57 AM
    Dr. Maroon is arguably the top Neurologist in the United States.
    I bet the argument that he is just hit a crater sized pothole. If HE’S the best, I’m moving to Canada.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.