Concussions and head trauma suffered by athletes remain a controversial topic, prompting many contact sports to change rules and adopt new protocols to ensure a higher level of player safety.
The NFL in April settled a lawsuit brought by about 5,000 former players who accused it of covering up the dangers of concussions in a deal that could cost the league $1 billion.
Some points to be included at Saturday’s meeting include an expected announcement of an NFL collaboration with a foundation studying the long-term impact of concussions on jockeys, and the sharing of a Canadian Football League study on identifying concussions through eye movement tests, said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president of health and safety policy.
Some critics see the NFL-hosted London event as window dressing by the various sports bodies to protect their revenue.
But the co-chairman of the NFL’s head, neck and spine committee, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, said the conference is meant to help fill in gaps in an area of medicine where a lot about concussions remains unknown.
The conference is being held ahead of an NFL game in London on Sunday between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Some critics said the NFL conference is a marketing bid to shape how the public views an issue that is still unfolding.
“What they’re attempting to do is create a body of opinion and body of literature that tells the public that these concussions are manageable… short-term problems,” said Michael Kaplan, an attorney specializing in traumatic brain injuries who teaches at George Washington Law School.
The league and plaintiffs agreed that based on actuarial statistics up to 30% of former players could develop brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s or a less debilitating form of dementia.
In addition to the NFL, lawsuits have been filed in recent years against FIFA, the NHL and the NCAA. Even on the youth level the issue has gained prominence.
Several suicides by former NFL players, including Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau in 2012, received public attention. Last month, a study released by the Concussion Legacy Foundation found all but four of 91 former NFL players who donated their brains for research were diagnosed with a disease linked to concussions and head trauma.
October 22, 2015