by Irvin Muchnick
The ground-zero profiteer of the American football system’s systematic infliction of brain damage on youth athletes has just been flipped in a major business deal that flew under the radar of major media.
An alert reader pointed me to last week’s sale of Pittsburgh-based ImPACT Applications, purveyor of putative “concussion protocol software,” to Riverside Insights, an “educational assessment” company that is among the holdings of the private equity firm Alpine Investors. Riverside itself is a spinoff of Houghton Mifflin, the book publisher.
The Associated Press reproduced the news release of the transaction, which did not disclose financial terms. See https://apnews.com/Business%20Wire/7324166220a948a29ded8dc44ca9bbea.
Remarkably, this news has not yet made it onto the pages of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, hometown newspaper of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) — where ImPACT Applications was developed with the help of millions of dollars of National Institutes of Health grant funding and UPMC’s own avowed model of encouraging its clinicians and researchers to push the boundary between basic research and clinical application. The health care industry is the leading sector of the economy in Pittsburgh and all of western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.
The intellectual property and processes of the ImPACT “concussion management system” are vague. To put it mildly, they are controversial in the community of watchers of the phenomenon of lifelong traumatic brain injury repercussions — from both diagnosed concussions and undiagnosed accumulations of sub-concussive hits — among participants in youth and school football. I count myself among the critics who consider ImPACT useless, largely because it depends on “baseline” pre-sports participation tests that can be fudged or even fabricated.
The original UPMC group of doctors behind Impact — or, excuse me, ImPACT™ — were National Football League-affiliated. Joseph Maroon, a team neurologist for the Pittsburgh Steelers, a member of a key NFL advisory board, and the medical director of the WWE pro wrestling company, was one of them. In ridicule of his many have-it-both-ways apologies for the football industry while he exploits its public health crisis with bogus “solutions,” I’ve nicknamed him “Maroon 1-2-3-4-5.” This speaks to the reality that the vaunted ImPACT system is little more than a computer-facilitated way of holding up a set of fingers in front of someone who was knocked dizzy, then hyping the output as some kind of sophisticated and useful “return to play protocol.”
In 2012 Concussion Inc. published a 7,000-word ebook entitled UPMC: Concussion Scandal Ground Zero. It is still available on Amazon Kindle at https://tinyurl.com/rn8bg3m. You also can get a PDF version of the ebook by remitting $1.49 via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shortly, we’ll be posting comprehensive links to our years of coverage of Concussion Inc. avatar ImPACT Applications — which now has shown us, big-time, what happens when you follow the money.