Is NFL doing enough about concussions? Congress wants answers

WASHINGTON -- After seeing the NFL make changes to its concussion policy since an October hearing, Congress wants to know whether the league is doing enough -- and where things stand in college and high school football.

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a session called "Legal Issues Relating to Football Head Injuries, Part II" on Jan. 4 in Detroit.

"We discussed the hearing with committee staff as recently as today concerning information they may need from us," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote Thursday in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

On Oct. 28 in Washington, lawmakers questioned NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about the league's approach to concussions and grilled him on whether head injuries in football can be linked to brain disease. Since then, Goodell has announced stricter return-to-play guidelines that make it tougher for players to get back on the field after head injuries and has made every team enlist an independent neurologist who can be consulted when players have concussions.

Neither Goodell nor any other NFL employee was on the preliminary witness list released Thursday by the office of committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., although Aiello wrote that the league "will be able to tell the committee soon whether we will have a witness attend."

Among those who were on the witness list: neurologist Ira Casson. He didn't appear at the October hearing -- lawmakers had hoped he would -- and recently resigned as co-chairman of the NFL's concussion committee.

"It will be a good opportunity for Dr. Casson to set the record straight on his views," Aiello wrote.

Casson didn't immediately respond to a message left at his office requesting comment.

At the October hearing, Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., played a clip of a television interview in which Casson denied evidence of a link between multiple head injuries in NFL players and brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's. Sanchez said that reminded her of tobacco companies denying a link between smoking and health damage in the 1990s.

Among others slated to appear next month at Wayne State University, which is in Conyers' congressional district: NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, NCAA director of health and safety David Klossner and Wayne State assistant professor of neurology Randall Benson.

This week, an NCAA committee recommended a new rule that would sideline an athlete for at least the rest of the day if he or she loses consciousness or shows other worrisome symptoms during competition. The rule would apply to all NCAA sports.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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