Monthly Archives: March 2017

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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Court Denies NFL’s Statute of Limitations Argument in Concussion Case Involving Player from the 1950s

(Editor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the March Concussion Litigation Reporter)A New York state trial court has denied the NFL’s motion to dismiss a claim in which the son of a former NFL player, who was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after his death, sued the league for fraud and negligence.

The lawsuit was filed by Arthur DeCarlo Jr. after his father, Art DeCarlo, died in 2013.  DeCarlo Jr. alleged in the complaint that the risks associated with repeated head blows have been researched and written about in medical journals for nearly a century. Yet, the NFL “ignored, minimized, disputed and suppressed” such studies linking CTE to football. The “century” reference is important because DeCarlo played football for the defendant from 1953 to 1961.

Specifically, he asserted the following causes of action: “(1) counts one and two-fraudulent concealment and fraud; (2) count three-civil conspiracy; (3) counts four and five-negligence; (4) count six-negligent misrepresentation; (5) counts seven and eight-negligent hiring and retention; and (6) count nine-wrongful death and survival.

The NFL moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the claims … (To see the full article, please subscribe at https://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)

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Researchers Identify How Inflammation Spreads Through the Brain After Injury

Researchers have identified a new mechanism by which inflammation can spread throughout the brain after injury. This mechanism may explain the widespread and long-lasting inflammation that occurs after traumatic brain injury, and may play a role in other neurodegenerative diseases.

The findings were published in a study in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.

This new understanding has the potential to transform how brain inflammation is understood, and, ultimately, how it is treated. The researchers showed that microparticles derived from brain inflammatory cells are markedly increased in both the brain and the blood following experimental traumatic brain injury (TBI). These microparticles carry pro-inflammatory factors that can activate normal immune cells, making them potentially toxic to brain neurons. Injecting such microparticles into the brains of uninjured animals creates progressive inflammation at both the injection site and eventually in more distant sites.

Research has found that neuroinflammation often goes on for years after TBI, causing chronic brain damage. The researchers say that the microparticles may play a key role in this process.

Chronic inflammation has been increasingly implicated in the progressive cell loss and neurological changes that occur after TBI. These inflammatory microparticles may be a key mechanism for chronic, progressive brain inflammation and may represent a new target for treating brain injury.

The researchers on the paper include four University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers: Alan Faden, Stephen R. Thom, Bogdan A. Stoica, and David Loane.

“These results potentially provide a new conceptual framework for understanding brain inflammation and its relationship to brain cell loss and neurological deficits after head injury, and may be relevant for other neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer disease in which neuroinflammation may also play a role,” said Dr. Faden. “The idea that brain inflammation can trigger more inflammation at a distance through the release of microparticles may offer novel treatment targets for a number of important brain diseases.”

The researchers studied mice, and found that in animals who had a traumatic brain injury, levels of microparticles in the blood were much higher. Because each kind of cell in the body has a distinct fingerprint, the researchers could track exactly where the microparticles came from. The microparticles they looked at in this study are released from cells known as microglia, immune cells that are common in the brain. After an injury, these cells often go into overdrive in an attempt to fix the injury. But this outsized response can change protective inflammatory responses to chronic destructive ones.

The findings have important potential clinical implications. The researchers say that microparticles in the blood have the potential to be used as a biomarker – a way to determine how serious a brain injury may be. This could help guide treatment of the injuries, whose severity is often difficult to gauge.

They also found that exposing the inflammatory microparticles to a compound called PEG-TB could neutralize them. This opens up the possibility of using that compound or others to treat TBI, and perhaps even other neurodegenerative diseases.

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