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Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Batjer, Ellenbogen to lead committee

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The NFL chose two new co-chairmen -- and a new name -- for its committee on concussions.

Dr. Hunt Batjer of Northwestern University, and Dr. Richard Ellenbogen of the University of Washington will lead what now will be called the NFL head, neck and spine medical committee, the league said Tuesday.

The panel used to be called the NFL mild traumatic brain injury committee.

Dr. Ira Casson and Dr. David Viano, who had led the league committee on concussions since 2007, resigned in November, less than a month after Casson and the NFL's concussion policy were criticized by Congress during a hearing at which commissioner Roger Goodell testified.

A slew of changes have been made since, including the introduction of new return-to-play guidelines for when players get concussions in practice or a game, and having each team enlist an independent neurologist to be consulted when a player has a head injury.

Casson came under attack from the NFL Players Association and members of Congress for criticizing independent and league-sponsored studies linking pro football careers with heightened risk for dementia and cognitive decline.

Jets team doctor Elliott Pellman, who resigned as chairman of the NFL concussion committee in 2007 but remained a member, now will leave the panel, league spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Pellman will "continue to work with the committee in an administrative role, and he works with our other medical committees," Aiello wrote in an e-mail. "He is the medical liaison for our office."

The new leaders of the NFL committee, Batjer and Ellenbogen, are professors and chairmen of their medical schools' departments of neurological surgery. They will be able to appoint other members of the league panel.

The NFL also announced Tuesday that Dr. Mitchel Berger will join the committee. He is the chairman of the department of neurological surgery at the University of California-San Francisco.

"These doctors are renowned experts in the field of head and spine injury, and they will strengthen our leadership role in research, education, prevention, and treatment of these injuries in sports. I personally interviewed all three doctors," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement released by the league.

The league said the committee will study injury data and equipment research, examine treatment strategies, and support additional research on the long-term impact of concussions and related injuries.