Union wants NFL concussion expert ousted due to perceived bias

NEW YORK -- The NFL Players Association wants the league to remove the co-chairman of its committee on concussions because the union believes he is biased.

Dr. Ira Casson has criticized independent and league-sponsored studies linking NFL careers with heightened risk for dementia and cognitive decline, saying more research is needed.

"We've expressed some serious concern about his ability to continue in his role," NFLPA assistant executive director George Atallah said in a telephone interview Friday, "because of the historic comments that he's made with respect to discrediting independent research on the subject of concussions and the long-term impact of football on players."

The NFLPA's stance was first reported by The New York Times.

"Neither (union head) DeMaurice Smith nor anyone else at the NFLPA initiated a discussion about Dr. Casson with the commissioner," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "However, we have informed Mr. Smith of a number of steps we are considering relating to player health and safety, including the work and structure of our committee on brain injuries."

Casson has served on the committee since it was formed in 1994 and became co-chairman in 2007. He has been conducting a study of retired players he said will provide reliable evidence on brain injuries in the sport.

According to The Times, that study has been criticized by several outside experts in epidemiology and dementia research who say the 120 test subjects are too few to find any substantial link between football and brain injuries and that Casson's role in conducting all neurological exams in the study is improper.

Atallah told the AP that the union was upset that Casson failed to appear at last month's congressional hearing about football head injuries. Some House members complained that day that Casson did not testify.

During the hearing, Rep. Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat, played a clip of a TV interview in which Casson denied evidence of a link between multiple head injuries in NFL players with brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's. Sanchez said that reminded her of tobacco companies denying a link between smoking and disease.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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