Panel of Sports Medicine and Management Experts, Professional Athletes Examine Ethical Conflicts When Treating Concussed Athletes

Solutions Needed to Keep Non-Health Factors from Hindering Appropriate Treatment

November 18, 2011 - 9:50am

Arthur Miller leads discussion at NYU Langone about ethics around treating athletes with possible concussionExperts from NYU Langone Medical Center and NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies’ Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management held a panel discussion Tuesday night on the ethics of who is responsible for ensuring appropriate medical treatment of an athlete that is injured – particularly if they may have a concussion. The issue is of concern for both adult and youth athletes: in addition to tens of thousands of professional and amateur athletes, it is estimated that more than 40 million children in the U.S. play at least one sport. According to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, 21 percent of these young athletes say they have been pressured to play with an injury.

Key takeaways from the evening include:

  • Understand the issues: A great deal has been learned about concussions in the last 10 years, but they are complex and can be difficult to diagnose, especially on the field. While medical, sports and equipment experts are working to evolve technology, guidelines and rules to keep contact sports safe – equipment alone does not protect the brain from being jarred during contact.
  • Awareness is vital: The more players, trainers, coaches, parents and sports organizers understand about the real – and often hidden – dangers of head injuries, the more likely the right decisions will be made on the practice field, sideline or locker room. Professional leagues, retired players and other advocacy groups also help the medical community develop best practices and support better awareness in youth and recreational programs. The media and internet play a key role in providing information on the potential long term dangers of head injuries.
  • Everyone is responsible: All panelists agreed – no matter what the age or level of play – when a potential injury to the brain is involved there is no gray area: athletes must be removed from play and receive appropriate medical attention despite any desire of the athlete, and even a parent, to continue playing.

Moderated by Arthur Miller, University Professor and Director of Public Dialogues at NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS), the panel was hosted by the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center, the Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation Network and the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at NYU-SCPS.

Several hundred medical, law and sports management students and local coaches attended the event. The panelists are available to comment further on the issues discussed and a video replay is available below (NOTE: it may take 30-60 seconds for player to load; full event is two hours):

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The members of the panel included orthopaedic surgeons, professional team physicians, ethicists, former professional athletes, coaches and members of the sports media, including:

• Robert Boland, JD, academic chair and clinical associate professor of sports management, NYU-SCPS Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management, sports lawyer and former player agent

• Arthur Caplan, PhD, the Emmanuel and Robert Hart Director of the Center for Bioethics, Sydney D. Caplan Professor of Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania

Dennis Cardone, DO, clinical associate professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, NYU Langone and co-director, Partners for Youth (PSAL)

• Harry Carson, member, Professional Football Hall of Fame and 10-year captain of the New York Giants • Andrew Feldman, MD, clinical assistant professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, NYU Langone and team physician, New York Rangers Hockey

Steven Flanagan, MD, professor and chair, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Langone; medical director, Rusk Institute and board member, Brain Injury Association of NYS

• Roy S. Johnson, columnist,; former editor and writer, Sports Illustrated; and former editor-in-chief, Men’s Health and Savoy

Claudette Lajam, MD, assistant professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, NYU Langone and team physician, USA Cycling

• Dino Mangiero, head football coach, Poly Prep Country Day School, Brooklyn and veteran of six NFL seasons

• Chris Nowinski, co-founder and president, Sports Legacy Institute; co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine; and former professional wrestler, World Wrestling Entertainment

• Ted Shaker, president, Mercury Media; former executive producer, CBS Sports and CNN/SI Network

• Brendan Shanahan, senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations, National Hockey League; veteran of 22 NHL seasons

Gerard Varlotta, DO, clinical associate professor, Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, NYU Langone and ringside physician, NYS Athletic Commission

• Lesley Visser, sportscaster and member, Professional Football Hall of Fame


Media Inquiries:

Craig Andrews