In two emails yesterday to the media relations staff, I asked the Philadelphia Eagles the identity of the “independent neurologist” who cleared Michael Vick to play today. I later forwarded the message to their counterparts at the National Football League office.
There has been no response.
The NFL’s return-to-play protocols following concussions, which were promulgated in 2009, state that a player “should not be considered for return-to-football activities until he is fully asymptomatic, both at rest and after exertion, has a normal neurological examination, normal neuropsychological testing, and has been cleared to return by both his team physician(s) and the independent neurological consultant.”
This morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer does not name the “independent neurologist” on the Vick case. Nor does anyone else appear to have done this. The Inquirer does quote Vernon Williams, medical director of the Kerlan-Jobe Center for Sports Neurology in Los Angeles, saying, “There is some evidence – and this isn’t completely worked out – of what we call injury-induced vulnerability. Once the brain has been concussed, in many people it is easier for them to suffer a second concussion.” Williams adds: “As you increase physical exertion and demand on the brain and body there’s a risk you have in a return of symptoms. Think about the differences in your exertion level, your adrenaline between practice and a game – there’s a pretty significant difference there.”
Chris Nowinski, of the Sports Legacy Institute and Boston University’s Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy, continues his rhetorical tiptoe through the tulips, saying some of the right things while coming off more like an NFL bureaucrat than an independent public health advocate. Nowinski told Newsday he would have been happier to see Vick “err on the side of caution” and not play. According to Newsday, “Nowinski thinks the NFL is doing ‘a much better job’ of determining when it’s safe to play. But as the NFL notes in its policy, a critical element of managing concussions is ‘candid reporting of players of their symptoms.'”
My interpretation here is that Nowinski’s overarching theme from the Vick controversy is the league’s potential liability for a player’s disability or death. And such liability is mitigated by the double-reverse protocols of consulting an unnamed “independent neurologist.” The NFL is further protected if Vick did not “candidly report” his symptoms.
I would much rather have seen Nowinski say something on behalf of the millions of people who will watch today’s Eagles-New York Giants game, and the millions of families of youth football players who are being misled by the opaque baloney at the nflhealthandsafety.com website. Some of that nonsense spews from Dr. Joseph Maroon, neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers and medical director for World Wrestling Entertainment; Maroon’s University of Pittsburgh Medical Center was involved in the review of Vick’s neurocognitive tests, according to ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio.
If Nowinski anywhere has joined me in calling for public disclosure of Vick’s “independent neurologist,” I missed it.