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NFL Announces Scientific Advisory Board To Guide Medical and Neuroscience Research Funding

Leading Independent Experts Will Identify Compelling Research Priorities to Support with the NFL's $40 Million Commitment


December 20, 2016

The National Football League has assembled a Scientific Advisory Board comprising leading independent experts, doctors, scientists and clinicians to develop and lead a clear process to identify and support compelling proposals for scientific research.

The establishment of the NFL's Scientific Advisory Board follows the launch of the new Play Smart. Play Safe. initiative that Commissioner Roger Goodell announced in September. As part of the initiative, the NFL has allotted $100 million for medical research and engineering advancements, including $40 million in funding for medical research over the next five years, primarily dedicated to neuroscience.

The board will develop a process for soliciting, reviewing and evaluating research proposals and directing funding. The board will leverage the expertise of the NFL's medical committee members, including members of the Head, Neck and Spine Committee, to identify and develop research priorities.

The board will provide its recommendations to Dr. Betsy Nabel, the NFL's chief health and medical advisor. "We have assembled an impressive group of experts to advise the NFL's future medical and scientific research investments," Dr. Nabel said. "We are grateful for the expertise the Scientific Advisory Board will provide the NFL as it prepares to support important new research."

The NFL's Scientific Advisory Board includes:

Peter Chiarelli, Gen. (Ret.)


General Chiarelli, U.S. Army General (Retired), is Chief Executive Officer of One Mind, a brain illness related non-profit organization who works with members in the governmental, corporate, scientific and philanthropic communities to greatly accelerate large-scale research through "Open Science" data sharing and collaboration. One Mind's current focus is on a new approach to diagnose, treat and cure post-traumatic stress (PTS) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). He is a retired General with almost 40 years of experience. As the 32nd Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, he led the Department of Defense efforts on post-traumatic stress (PTS), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and suicide prevention. In this role, he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Army and its 1.1 million active and reserve soldiers, including the oversight of many of the Army's R&D programs, and the implementation of recommendations related to its behavioral health programs, specifically its Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Program. In 2013, Chiarelli received the Patriot Award, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's highest honor for his work to help soldiers and families suffering from the invisible wounds of war.

David Hovda, Ph.D.

Dr. Hovda is the Director of the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center. He is Past President of the National Neurotrauma and International Neurotrauma Societies. He has served as Chair of study sections for the National Institute for Neurological Disease and Stroke (NINDS). He has received a number of awards for his research on brain injury and recovery of function, including the 1991 National Head Injury Foundation Award, the Giannini Foundation Award, the Benjamin Franklin Haught Memorial Award, the 2008 Deborah L. Warden Lectureship Award and named the Lind Lawrence Eminent Scholar for his work on the topic of Traumatic Brain Injury. In 2011, the Secretary of the Army presented Dr. Hovda the "Strength of the Nation Award", the highest award given to a civilian from the United States Army, in recognition of Dr. Hovda's efforts to help military personnel suffering from mild traumatic brain injury returning from theater. Dr. Hovda is internationally known for his translational work on the pathobiology of traumatic brain injury and has devoted most of his career to understanding the mechanisms of recovery of function.

Douglas H. Smith, M.D.

Dr. Smith serves as Director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair and is the Robert A. Groff Endowed Professor and Vice Chairman for Research and Education in Neurosurgery at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Smith is also the Scientific Director for the Big 10/ Ivy League consortium on concussion. For research awards, he is director of several multi-center National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Department of Defense grants on concussion and TBI-induced neurodegeneration, as well as for an NIH training grant on brain injury. His group has demonstrated that damage to the brain's network, called "diffuse axonal injury," is a fundamental mechanism of concussion. This has led to the development of diagnostic tools to identify concussed individuals who will have poor outcomes. In addition, his group has discovered mechanisms of concussion and more severe TBI that lead to progressive neurodegeneration, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Recent scientific awards for these contributions include the Dorothy Russell Medal, the highest honor conveyed by the British Neuropathological Society.

David J. Shulkin, M.D.

The Honorable Dr. David J. Shulkin is Under Secretary for Health for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. As the Chief Executive of the Veterans Health Administration, Dr. Shulkin leads the nation's largest integrated health care system with over 1,700 sites of care, serving 8.76 million Veterans each year. The Veterans Health Administration is also the nation's largest provider of graduate medical education and major contributor of medical research. Dr. Shulkin oversees the health system that employs over 300,000 people. Prior to being nominated by President Obama and being confirmed by the United States Senate as Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Shulkin served in numerous chief executive roles including serving as President at Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children's Hospital, and Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute, and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization. Dr. Shulkin also previously served as President and CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. As an entrepreneur, Dr. Shulkin founded and served as the Chairman and CEO of DoctorQuality one of the first consumer-oriented sources of information for quality and safety in healthcare.

Sidney Hinds, M.D., M.C., Col.

Colonel Hinds is a Brain Health Research Program Coordinator at the Department of Defense, where he coordinates neurological and psychological protection, prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation research as it pertains to blast injury. He previously served as the national director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC), which serves active duty military and veterans with traumatic brain injury through state-of-the-art medical care and care coordination, and innovative clinical research and educational programs. Before that, he was the deputy director of the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute for Military Medical Operations, the theater neurologist in Afghanistan, and chief of Nuclear Medicine Services at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. While deployed to Afghanistan from February to July 2012, he oversaw standardization of care at 11 concussion care centers as the theater neurology consultant.

Shelly D. Timmons, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Timmons serves as Director of Neurotrauma, Vice Chair for the Administration Department of Neurosurgery, and Professor of Neurosurgery at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. She has been a clinical researcher for a number of years, and has participated as principal investigator in numerous clinical trials related to traumatic brain injury. She has published and lectured on a variety of topics related to traumatic brain injury, neurocritical care, spinal cord injury, blunt vascular injury, and health care delivery throughout her career. She has held a variety of professional organizational positions, including Director-at-Large for the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) Board of Directors, Chair of the Section on Neurotrauma and Neurocritical Care of the AANS and Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS), Governor and Chair of the Neurosurgery Advisory Council of the American College of Surgeons, and Scientific Counsellor for the Centers for Disease Control Center for Injury Control and Prevention.

For more information about Play Smart. Play Safe., and to read the Commissioner's letter to fans, please visit

For more information on the NFL's Commitment to Medical Research, please visit