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STATEMENT: FORUM ON “ADDRESSING THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF SPORTS-RELATED BRAIN INJURY”

Oct 13, 2017
Forum examines what is known about brain injuries, what gaps exist in the scientific literature, and what is being done to address those gaps

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I am pleased to join my colleague, Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, in sponsoring this important event.

Today’s Forum brings together some of the Nation’s leading experts from the medical research and athletic communities to review the causes, effects, and treatments of concussions and other head trauma. 

In particular, the Forum examines what is known about brain injuries, what gaps exist in the scientific literature, and what is being done to address those gaps. 

It will also feature first-hand accounts from individuals who suffered from subconcussive trauma or have witnessed its long-term effects on their loved-ones.                 

When I was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, we held a hearing on football head injuries in 2009, which was prompted by the mounting scientific evidence connecting head injuries in football and cognitive problems later in life.

During that hearing, the National Football League refused to acknowledge a connection between head injuries on the football field and the subsequent development of brain diseases.

The following year, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing in Detroit, Michigan followed by forums in Houston and New York City as part of our ongoing commitment to calling attention to this problem and examining ways to prevent head injuries in youth, high school, and college football.

This brings us to today’s Forum, where our medical panelists will discuss their recently published study examining the brains of 111 deceased NFL players, which found that an astounding 110 of them had chronic traumatic encephalopathy also known as “CTE”.

Although scientific evidence clearly links head injuries in football to cognitive problems later in life,   between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports and recreation related concussions occur each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The extent of injury is particularly problematic for our youth as most brains are not fully developed until age 25.  As a result, a concussion is more dangerous for a youth than for an adult.

I hope the panelists today will provide guidance on how we can better protect all athletes, especially our young athletes.             

I would be remiss if I did not briefly comment concerning President Trump’s recent series of statements concerning our nation’s professional football players.  At his rally in Alabama on September 22, he mocked the National Football League’s efforts to prevent brain injuries, declaring: “Two guys, just really, beautiful tackle. Boom! 15 yards. The referee goes on television, his wife’s so proud of him. They’re ruining the game! They’re ruining the game.”

The President of the United States then went on to use the power of his and the Vice-President’s bully pulpits and Twitter feeds to rail against the right of private citizens to express their views and right to protest as guaranteed by the First Amendment’s free speech protection.

Ironically, Mr. Trump has not uttered a single word about the actual underlying issue -- the glaring disparities in how African-Americans are dealt with under our criminal justice system and their treatment by law enforcement officers, which have often had deadly consequences. 

These are problems, by the way, which have gotten worse, not better, under the Trump Administration and Sessions Justice Department.

Today’s forum will allow us to return to the actual facts and evidence, and consider how we can best protect football players at all levels in an incredibly violent sport.

I thank all the panelists and Members for being here today.

115th Congress