House Democrats confirm NFL tried to manipulate concussion study

A 91-page report released Monday by House Committee on Energy and Commerce Democratic staff confirms that National Football League (NFL) officials attempted to decommission a $16 million grant for a Boston University (BU) researcher to study the effects of brain injury and other “serious medical conditions prominent in athletes.”

In 2012, the NFL promised a donation of $30 million to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the study, but later reneged on the pledge after the league’s medical director was unable to convince NIH to select somebody other than BU’s Dr. Robert Stern, a known critic of football’s concussion epidemic. 

ESPN first reported allegations against the NFL’s attempted influence of NIH in Dec. 2015, and the Committee’s report, entitled “The National Football League’s Attempt to Influence Funding Decisions at the National Institute’s of Health“, confirmed those findings.

Ultimately, U.S. taxpayers were left to fund the study after the NFL backed out, which the Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking Democrat, Frank Pallone of New Jersey, said “should never have tried to influence (the) process.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy issued a statement Monday saying, “The NFL rejects the allegations . . . There is no dispute that there were concerns raised about both the nature of the study in question and possible conflicts of interest. These concerns were raised for review and consideration through the appropriate channels.”

Evidence of the NFL’s attempt to pull Stern from the study centers around an email sent by Medical Director Dr. Elliot Pellman to NIH’s research fundraising director, Dr. Maria Freire, asking to “slow the process [of selecting Dr. Stern] down until we all have a chance to speak and figure this out.”

Ultimately, NIH commissioned Stern to perform the study, which the Committee’s Democrats conclude “maintained the integrity of the science and the grant review process.”


[Politico] [AP] [Photo courtesy YouTube/The Point with Ana Kasparian]