NFL’s internal concussion research takes odd turn

08 October 2008: The National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell attends a luncheon at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio Texas.
John Albright / Icon Sportswire

The NFL is conducting internal concussion research to determine prevention, diagnosis and treatment of head injuries, according to Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru of ESPN. The league committed $100 million to concussion research last year, and after spending ample time donating to outside sources, the NFL has decided to take matters into its own hands and study head injuries on its own.

“I would view it just as if any giant corporation was doing internal research,” said Stefan Duma, a concussion researcher who is the interim director for Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science. “This is internal research that the NFL controls.”

Here’s the catch, though. It’s not focused on football players, but rather jockeys.

The study is aiming to determine why the high volume of head injuries that are sustained in horse racing do not result in deteriorating brain function later on in life as it does in football. The NFL will spend more than half of the $100 million it has pledged to try to create a safer helmet to reduce concussions. The league attempted a similar project that failed over a decade ago.

Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged a year ago that there was “skepticism” about the league’s work in trying to prevent head injuries, but said that “both the process and the results” would be made public. Peter W. Chiarelli, chairman of the NFL Scientific Advisory Board, says the board can make recommendations to the NFL, but that the league will have the final say in all matters.

“What we’re going to do is make recommendations,” he said. “They’re going to decide how to spend their money.”

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