The NFL has long shied away from a discussion on concussions and the affects they have on their own players.

Dr. Elliot Pellman had headed the NFL’s concussion committee since it was founded in 1994 before resigning in February of this year.

Pellman’s qualifications?

He was a biology major at NYU whose low grades sent him to the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. He then served a one-year residency at Stony Brook, from which he once claimed he held a degree.

He was a rheumatologist, a doctor whose main concern is arthritis. Yet, he was hired by the Jets in 1988 and slowly moved up the ranks to becoming the head of the NFL’s concussion committee.

In October 2003, Pellman and his committee published the first of a series of articles on concussions in the scholarly journal Nerosurgery, which was edited by the New York Giant’s neurosurgical consultant.

The study planned to look at baseline results (a test measuring brain function) and identify a normal range for uninjured players. These would be useful in comparing the post injury scores to determine the effects of multiple concussions.

However, Pellman ignored much of the data (at least 850 baseline test results were absent) and selected certain players to meet his conclusions. Pellman denies this ever happening, but the evidence is overwhelming from his peers.

Of course, his conclusion was that NFL players do not show a decline in brain function after suffering concussions.

Dr. Timothy Heitzman, an assistant professor of psychology at Fairfield, disputes these claims.

“When the athlete performs suitably on that [baseline] testing he or she is judged to be ready to return. This, however, does not mean that they are necessarily safe from repeated injury, especially if they have a history of concussions,” he said.

The peer review for Pellman’s study was equally harsh. One scientist claimed that the NFL was merely trying to protect itself.

“They’re basically trying to prepare a defense for when one of these players sues,” he said.

In January of 2005, Pellman’s committee published its seventh paper claiming, “Return to play does not involve a significant risk of a second injury either in the same game or during the season.”

However, a 2003 NCAA study of 2,905 college football players found that those who have suffered concussions are more susceptible to further injury for as long as seven to ten days after the original injury.

According to Pellman, 51.7 percent of players return the same game as their concussion, risking no further injury according to him.

However, many former players are coming forward with signs of depression and other mental problems.

Former Philadelphia Eagle Andre Waters committed suicide last November. When his brain was autopsied, Dr. Bennet Omalu of the University of Pittsburg told the New York Times that his brain was that of an 85-year-old man and was showing signs of Alzheimers.

Waters was 44 and a father of three.

Fairfield takes measures to prevent this from happening to their own athletes.

“Student athletes are required to take a neuro-psychological exam (IMPACT test) at the Athletic Training room to assess brain function and impairment at various intervals during recovery,” said director of sports medicine at Fairfield Mark Ayotte.

“As a rule, any head trauma necessitating an on the field exam or removal from play, results in a seven day minimum waiting period to allow symptoms to clear,” he said.

Yet, there is tremendous pressure even in college sports to get back out on the field, by the fans, coaches, and even they players.

“All of these factors tend to make the decision to return an ambiguous one,” said Heitzman. “In the end, athletes and their coaches need to make many of these decisions on their own with proper ethical consideration to the health of the athlete.”

The NFL needs to follow in the steps of the NCAA and Fairfield and acknowledge the effects of concussions and stop trying to protect themselves from a lawsuit.

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