SEATTLE — The co-chair of the NFL's head, neck and spine committee sent a letter to Congress stressing that he was not contacted during a government study on the link between football and brain disease.
That study concluded that NFL officials improperly sought to influence the findings.
Dr. Richard Ellenbogen wrote Tuesday to New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone to say that claims he and others tried to influence a National Institutes of Health grant selection are inaccurate. Ellenbogen called not being interviewed a "basic lack of fairness" and a "maligning without so much as the courtesy of a direct question to me by your staff."
Pallone said the league tried to strong-arm the NIH into taking the project away from a researcher who the NFL feared was biased.
According to the study, the NFL had agreed to donate $30 million to the NIH to fund brain research, but backed out after the institutes went ahead with a $16 million grant to prominent Boston University researcher Robert Stern. He's a leading expert on the link between football and brain diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Taxpayers are instead bearing the cost.
Ellenbogen, chairman of the University of Washington Department of Neurological Surgery, criticized the study as counterproductive in efforts to understand the long-term risks of traumatic brain injury.
"To be clear, I am not and never have been paid by the NFL nor have I ever received funding through the research grant dollars in question," he said. "I am a physician on the front lines of this issue, treating kids and counseling parents every day on understanding concussions and repetitive head injury.
One section of the congressional report suggested Ellenbogen had "conflicts of interest" because he had applied for a $16 million grant that eventually went to the Boston University group.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also sharply disputed the findings of the Congressional report, released Monday.
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