Amid a national debate about concussions in sports leagues and the military, a House Committee is entering the fray with what is promised to be a comprehensive review of head injuries.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton announced Tuesday that three of his subcommittees will partner on the review of head injuries in 2016. The review is intended to bring in partners from the medical community, the military, athletes, and other stakeholders to provide a broad overview of concussions.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot we don’t know about head trauma—how it affects different subsets of the population, the short- and long-term effects, and other details critical to developing effective diagnostics and treatments,” Upton said. “Our goal is to bring together experts from across the medical spectrum to increase collaboration, have a thoughtful dialogue, and move the conversation forward.”
While Upton promised that the review will focus on the problem “well beyond the battlefield and the gridiron,” the project is sure to attract headlines because of its implications for the National Football League. The NFL is under increasing scrutiny for its treatment of concussions, with current and retired players charging that the league has not done enough to protect its players from the long-term effects of head injuries (the debate will hit movie theaters this week with the release of Concussion, starring Will Smith). The league settled a lawsuit with former players over head injuries this spring that could cost upwards of $900 million.
ESPN reported Tuesday that the NFL had pulled funding from a massive Boston University study examining the link between football and head injuries, which will instead be funded by the National Institutes of Health.
A committee release mentions input from “professional and collegiate sports,” although it does not mention any specific names and a committee aide said that they were not ready to identify who would be involved. The NFL did not return a request for comment.
The NFL has been trying to raise its profile on Capitol Hill amid the scrutiny—Commissioner Roger Goodell made the rounds in July to discuss the league’s safety initiatives. Cynthia Hogan, the league’s senior vice president of public policy and government affairs, said the visit was meant to show “that while Congress is focused on many issues, they can know that we are on our stuff.”
A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NIH found that traumatic brain injuries accounted for 2.5 million emergency-room visits in 2010 alone, but cautioned that the number was low because it did not include untreated injuries. The report laid out several areas for future study, including evidence-based guidelines for future head-injury treatment, better understanding of the long-term implications, and more study on the prevention of brain injuries.
Among the study’s findings were that the U.S. military had treated 235,046 service members for head injuries between 2000 and 2011.
It’s not the first time Congress has waded into the implications of head injuries. The Energy and Commerce panel has held several hearings focused on concussions in sports, including one in March 2014. That same year, the White House convened a summit on children’s sports, where the NFL made a $25 million pledge to support youth-sports safety and the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced a $30 million concussion study with the Department of Defense.
The Energy and Commerce review will be handled by three subcommittees: Oversight and Investigations; Health; and Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade.
What We're Following See More »
"Russia wants to charge former Ambassador Michael McFaul and several U.S. intelligence officials with financial crimes, Russian officials revealed Tuesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin broached the topic during his summit with President Trump, when he offered to allow Special Counsel Robert Mueller to attend the questioning of Russian spies accused of conducting cyberattacks against the Democratic Party in 2016. In exchange, Putin’s team wants to question McFaul and at least three National Security Agency officials in connection to a case involving Bill Browder, a hedge fund manager who has led an international effort to impose sanctions on Russian officials implicated in human rights abuses."
With President Trump back from a trip in which he seemed to undermine European alliances while cozying up to Vladimir Putin, the White House has announced that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will visit on July 25. According to a statement, the two "will focus on improving transatlantic trade and forging a stronger economic partnership."
"The House Veterans Affairs Committee has launched an investigation into care at the VA’s 133 nursing homes after learning the agency had given almost half of them the lowest possible score in secret, internal rankings. The probe follows an investigation by The Boston Globe and USA TODAY that showed 60 VA nursing homes ... rated only one out of five stars for quality last year in the agency’s own ranking system." Internal documents revealed that "patients in more than two-thirds of VA nursing homes were more likely to suffer pain and serious bedsores than their private sector counterparts, and that "VA nursing homes scored worse than private nursing homes on a majority of key quality indicators, including rates of anti-psychotic drug prescription and decline in daily living skills."