NEW YORK — Medical officials from the NFL, FIFA and other sports organizations are banding together to look into better ways to identify, manage and treat concussions.
The “think tank,” funded by an educational grant from the NFL, was held Sunday and Monday at league headquarters in New York. Dozens of scientific and medical personnel from football, rugby and equestrian circles participated.
Dr. Rich Ellenbogen, chairman of the NFL’s head, neck and spine committee, said the various sports organizations “need to look at all variations of what is being done around the world.”
“This will change the paradigm,” Ellenbogen said of such cooperation among sports. “How can we accelerate the information? This can provide a unique perspective to get people back to health. There are a lot of big ideas that can come out of this that resonated with all the leagues that may have not come up if they had done it in isolation.”
Among those on hand were FIFA’s chief medical officer, Dr. Jiri Dvorak; Dr. Martin Raftery of the International Rugby Board; Dr. Willem Meeuwisse of the University of Calgary’s sports injury prevention research center; and Dr. Paul McCrory, an associate professor at Australia’s Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.
McCrory, who works with Australian Rules Football, also emphasized the need to work collectively.
“This is an exciting development in the science of sports concussion,” he said. “Working with international sports leaders not only benefits athletes in professional sports but amateur participants throughout the world.”
Handling concussions was a major topic at the recently concluded World Cup in Brazil. In the wake of FIFA being criticized during the tournament for not effectively policing concussions, Dvorak insisted that the team doctor has final say over players returning to action after an apparent head injury.
He promised that FIFA would make it clear who is in charge if a player is suspected to be concussed.
“There is a controversy about overruling the decision of the team doctor,” he said. “From FIFA’s side, we will strengthen the position of the team doctor, as we did already in the past.”
More meetings are planned, perhaps as soon as later this year. The methodology for future research must be determined, as well as which sports might have particularly strong insight into certain treatments. Funding for any initiatives must also still be decided.