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NFL Names Dr. Allen Sills Chief Medical Officer

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has named Dr. Allen Sills as the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), a new full-time position based in New York.

Dr. Sills joins the NFL from Vanderbilt University Medical Center where he serves as Professor of Neurological Surgery, Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, and Founder and Co-Director of the Vanderbilt Sports Concussion Center.

Dr. Sills, a neurosurgeon who has specialized in the treatment of athletes, will “strengthen the NFL’s ongoing efforts to advance the health and safety of the sport. He will work closely with team medical staffs across the league, the NFL Players Association and its advisors and the many medical and scientific experts who comprise the NFL’s medical committees” and “guide” the NFL’s health and research efforts.

“There is no higher priority for the NFL than player health and safety and we continually seek to raise our standards and then surpass them,” said Commissioner Goodell. “We sought a highly-credentialed physician and leader with experience as a clinician and researcher, and Dr. Sills’ extensive experience caring for athletes makes him the right choice for this important position.”

“We conducted an intensive international search which included many leading experts in sports medicine,” said Dr. John York, Co-chairman, San Francisco 49ers and Chairman of the NFL Owners’ Health and Safety Advisory Committee.  “Dr. Sills stood out among the highly credentialed and qualified applicants.”

The appointment follows “a rigorous search” conducted by a premier panel of health and medical experts led by Dr. Betsy Nabel, Chief Health and Medical Advisor to the NFL and President of Brigham Health, and including Dr. Rob Heyer, President of the NFL Physicians Society and Team Internist for the Carolina Panthers, Ronnie Barnes, Senior Vice President, Medical Services and Head Athletic Trainer for the New York Giants, Dr. Robert Cantu, Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery and Co-Director, Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, Boston University School of Medicine, and Peter Foss, GE Healthcare.

The panel worked closely with Dr. John York, and Jeff Miller, NFL Executive Vice President of Health and Safety Initiatives. The NFL consulted with the NFL Players Association, including interviewing the final candidates. Dr. Sills will be reporting to Miller.

“I have been impressed by the talent and experience of the candidates I have met during this process,” said Dr. Betsy Nabel. “Dr. Sills has years of experience on the frontlines of both research and patient care, and I am confident that Dr. Sills will use this platform to continue his work to improve sports health and safety in the NFL and for all athletes.”

“Hiring Dr. Sills is a touchdown for the NFL,” said Dr. Robert Cantu. “He is an international leader for his work on concussions in sports. I look forward to working with him to further advance the NFL’s ongoing commitment to the health and safety of sports.”

Throughout his career, Dr. Sills has worked with numerous professional and collegiate sports programs. In addition to providing care for players on NFL sidelines as an Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant, he has served as a neurological consultant to the NCAA and the International Equestrian Foundation (FEI). He has also worked as consulting neurosurgeon for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, the NHL’s Nashville Predators, the US Equestrian Foundation and all Vanderbilt University, Belmont University and Mississippi State University athletic teams.

“Allen Sills is an exceptional leader who will bring the perspective of a practicing neurosurgeon to this important position,” said Dr. Reid Thompson, Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “He is an avid athlete and gifted surgeon with a passion for the care of elite athletes. With a combination of energy, vision and absolute integrity he is an inspired choice to become the first Chief Medical Officer of the NFL.” 

Dr. Sills is an active researcher who has published more than 150 scientific articles and presentations including more than 40 in the last five years on the topic of sports concussion. He is a member of the Concussion in Sport Group, which publishes international standards regarding concussion in sport. Dr. Sills is also a fellow of the American Board of Neurological Surgery and the American College of Surgeons and currently serves as Section Editor for Sports and Rehabilitation for the journal Neurosurgery.

Previously, Dr. Sills has served as Founder and Executive Director, Memphis Regional Brain Tumor Center; Director of the Neuroscience Institute at Methodist University Hospital, Memphis; Associate Professor, Department of Neurosurgery, College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee, Memphis and the Semmes-Murphey Clinic; and Chief, Division of Neurosurgery at the Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Dr. Sills graduated summa cum laude from Mississippi State University with a degree in engineering and received his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, where he also completed his internship in General Surgery, his residency training in Neurological Surgery and an NIH-funded Neuro-Oncology Fellowship.

Dr. Sills and his wife Shawne live in Tennessee and have four children. He serves on the Board of Directors for Make-A-Wish Foundation of Middle Tennessee, the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County Tennessee and has served as a youth baseball coach for more than 20 years.

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Going Behind the NFL’s Recently-Released Concussion Numbers

By David Stirt

(Editor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt from an article that appears in February issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter)

Data released by the National Football League on Jan. 26, 2017 revealed that while there were fewer players sustaining concussions during the 2016 season (244) versus the 2015 season (271), the 2016 numbers were in line with the five-year average (242) of concussions per season. While the total number of concussions reported in 2016 is lower than the 2015 total, it is higher than the numbers reported in both 2013 (229) and 2014 (206).

“It’s certainly positive that concussions were down this year across categories, but I think putting too much focus on any one year would be mistaken,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of health and safety policy. “The goal here is to drive those numbers down through rules changes, culture changes, protocol changes, through greater observation and treatment over a longer term period of time.”

Dr. Robert Heyer, president of the NFL’s Physician’s Society and team internist for the Carolina Panthers pointed out a cultural change within the NFL that may explain, in part, why … (To subscribe, visit http://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)

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Dolphins Slammed for Failure to Follow Concussion Protocol, NFL Releases Statement

The NFL just released the following statement:

The NFL and NFLPA have reviewed the application of the Concussion Protocol by the Dolphins’ medical staff in the January 8th Steelers-Dolphins game.

The Miami Dolphins were notified in a letter co-signed by Dr. Hunt Batjer, Co-Chair of the NFL Head, Neck & Spine Committee and Dr. Thom Mayer, Medical Director for the NFLPA, that the NFL-NFLPA review determined that the Protocol was not strictly followed. The letter further advised the Dolphins that they must engage their staff in a full review of the Protocol and conduct additional education, if necessary. The Dolphins were also advised that any future deviation from the Protocol may result in enhanced discipline, including monetary fines assessed against the Club.

In the second quarter, Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore incurred a hit to the chin and mouth area which drew a roughing the passer penalty. Mr. Moore was attended to by medical staff on the field and on the sideline. The team doctor took appropriate steps to promptly and fully involve the Unaffiliated Neuro-trauma Consultant (UNC) in the medical evaluation of the player and review of the video. They jointly cleared Mr. Moore to return to the game, but did not recognize that Mr. Moore presented a documented symptom, bleeding from the mouth, that required further evaluation in the locker room under the protocol. There is no indication that competitive issues had an impact on the care that Mr. Moore received, nor did Mr. Moore demonstrate any concussion symptoms either during or at any time following the game.

It is important for us to ensure everyone understands and follows the Protocol and that we continue to reinforce its importance. The co-chairmen of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee sent a memo to the medical staffs of the clubs participating in the playoffs reminding them of that point.

The objective of the Concussion Protocol is to ensure a standardized process composed of best practices is used to identify and manage potential concussions. Concussion diagnosis and management is often a difficult and complex exercise, compounded by hectic game conditions. Accurate diagnosis and management of concussion requires a collaborative approach among experienced physicians on the sideline, each acutely aware of his or her responsibilities and all committed to the strict application of the protocol designed to protect players.

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