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Study Finds that NFL Tried to Influence Concussion Research

Kaitlynn Martin6 months ago

The NFL agreed in 2012 to donate tens of millions of dollars for concussion research, which was seen as a positive turning point considering the history of the NFL down-playing the long term brain injuries of players.

Overview of the NFL Study

According to the New York Times,despite previous thoughts, NFL committees actually worked together to improperly influence the research, in order to steer the study toward a doctor with ties to the league.

During the course of the investigation, it was shown the NFL was privately attempting to influence the research, using the “unrestricted gift” as leverage.

However, the NFL has stated a denial of the accusations from the study, which was conducted by Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The NFL has a long history of mismanaging concussion research.

When it comes to this case, there are some similarities including Dr. Elliot Pellman, who led the leagues concussion committee for years until he was discredited. He had a history of denying the effects of concussions on players.

There are also more recent members, such as Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, who bid on the research grant and directed lobbied it to discredit the work of Dr. Robert Stern, the Boston University neuropyschologist for whom is was awarded.

Results of the NFL Study

The National Institutes of Health did not receive the $16 million from the NFL that was expected. Representative Frank Pallone Jr. oversaw the study and claims that the NFL tried to influence the research despite promises.  He believes that the NFL must recognize the importance of this ongoing impartial research.

The results, first reported by ESPN, also criticized the Foundation for the National Institutes if Health for not adequately buffering the relationship between the NIH and the NFL.

After Dr. Stern’s proposal was chosen, the research was expected to cost $17.5 million, $16.3 million of which would be funded by the NFL.

The NFL has had an uneasy relationship with Boston University, as the league denied the effects of concussions for years despite growing evidence and pressure. Without any admitting, it settled a class action suit for about $1 billion.

The recent study claims the NFL tried to pressure the NIH into steering the grant away from Dr. Stern. There have been several others with ties to the NFL that were concerned with the choice as well, according to Dr. Pellman. Dr. Stern’s proposal received the highest score and the NIH moved forward with his proposal.

Mr. Millers of the NFL and Ms. Freire of the FNIH debated over the next several months of the leagues commitment of funding the research. The NFL’s offer of an extra $2 million was declined.

The study concluded that a series of misunderstandings and disputes may have been avoided had the FNIH reminded the NFL of its obligation to fund the study. 

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