Chair of concussion committee resigns

Pellman faced growing criticism in NFL position

February 28, 2007|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun reporter

Dr. Elliot Pellman, who directed the NFL's concussion committee since its inception in 1994, has stepped down in the wake of mounting criticism from experts in the field of brain injury, The Sun has learned.

Last fall, ESPN The Magazine documented that Pellman was selective in what injury reports he used to reach his conclusions and omitted large numbers of players from the league's study.

Pellman will be replaced by co-chairmen of the league's mild traumatic brain injury committee. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said yesterday that Pellman asked to be relieved of his duties as chairman.

Dr. Ira Casson, a neurologist from Nassau, N.Y., and Dr. David Viano, director of the Sports Biomechanics Lab at Wayne State University, will head the committee, Aiello said in an e-mail. Neither doctor is affiliated with an NFL team.

Aiello said Pellman recommended adopting co-chairmen over the league's medical committees.

In recent months, Pellman has been the subject of a critical article in ESPN The Magazine and been assailed for his lack of expertise in the area of brain injury that he has overseen for the past 13 years.

"My perspective is that he was the wrong person to chair the committee from a scientific perspective and the right person from the league's perspective," said Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, research director of the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina.

Pellman did not respond to a voice-message request for an interview.

Guskiewicz said that recent papers published by the NFL's concussion committee were not received well in the medical community because they went against information that had been learned in other studies.

"We found this at the high school level, the college level and the professional level, that once you had a concussion or two, you are at increased risk for future concussions," said Guskiewicz, who has directed research on those three tiers of football. "He's continued to say on the record that's not what they find and there's no truth to it.

"Basically, he says these guys [professional football players] recover differently than other people."

Michael Kaplen, a New York attorney who specializes in representation of concussion and traumatic brain injury victims, takes his criticism even further.

"This person is a rheumatologist, not qualified to be an expert on brain injuries," Kaplen said. "He's not a neurologist, neuropsychologist, neurosurgeon, and has no training in this area at all."

In 2005, The New York Times reported that Pellman attended medical school in Guadalajara, Mexico, but did not graduate from SUNY Stony Brook, as he once claimed.

Aiello said Pellman "will continue as a member of the committee and will continue to be the administrative liaison with our office."

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