If the National Football League is serious about paying its fair share for the public health carnage wrought by its $10-billion-a-year global marketing colossus, I have a suggestion. The NFL should offer to underwrite catastrophic insurance for every amateur youth program that persists in enrolling kids in an activity of unavoidable fast or slow brain death despite growing and widely accepted evidence that no one under the age of, at most, 14 should be doing this.
Instead, Roger Goodell and the NFL decided to take Congress and the news media out to dinner and a movie, in the form of a $30 million grant to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.
Congressman Chaka Fattah, the Pennsylvania Democrat who is Mr. Brain Research in Washington, couldnt be happier that the NFL has turned the federal government into an honest woman.
Advancing our knowledge and treatment in neuroscience requires a mix of public-private resources and partnerships. The National Football League is showing the way with todays generous, well-placed gift. This $30 million grant provides a model for significant public-private research partnership to learn more about how our brains function, develop and misfire. The NFL and the FNIH are to be commended for joining up on this major step. I look forward to working with our federal science agencies and with private/nonprofit partners including the pharmaceutical industry, other businesses, sports, academic and research institutions, the military, the National Science Foundation, and other government research agencies to assure that we advance brain science in a cooperative fashion.
Meanwhile, what passes for healthy skepticism in consensus news commentary can be summarized as follows: Great step. Of course its just PR on the part of the NFL, and of course theyve got to give a lot more. But lets hope this money enables valuable new research on traumatic brain injury.
Excuse me but since when did public health agencies become middle men for private interests? Where did I miss that step in my civics classes?
The idea of the feds laundering a tax-deductible check from the Tobacco Institute for further study of the harmful effects of teen smoking would be ridiculed into oblivion. Yet that is precisely what is going on here with the NFLs model of public-private partnership.
I always thought the National Institutes of Health relied on taxpayer funding, from which it was supposed to help prioritize and fund medical research. I didnt know its mission included brokering a particular industrys calculated largesse.
The NFL already has funded the Centers for Disease Controls Heads Up campaign of concussion education. By definition, this had the arbitrary effect of framing concussion education as something less urgent than just say no to football.
Now the NFL owns NIH, too. And few citizens are even talking about what that means. Congressman Fattah is among those who are bragging about it.
One of the past recipients of NIH research grants is the team at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which used the money to develop the for-profit ImPACT concussion management system. That story is told in the Concussion Inc. ebook, UPMC: Concussion Scandal Ground Zero, which is available on Amazon Kindle at http://amzn.to/A0Hq2g, or as a plain PDF file by sending $1.49, via PayPal, to firstname.lastname@example.org.