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I am completing a reading task that is required for deeper understanding of the national sports concussion scandal: all articles by or referring to Dr. Joseph Maroon in Neurosurgery, the official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Maroon, a long-time neurologist for the Pittsburgh Steelers and spokesperson for the National Football League’s committee on traumatic brain injury, also since 2008 has held the title of medical director of World Wrestling Entertainment.
This post introduces a series with my notes on pertinent historical Neurosurgery articles. Some of the information here has been published previously in dribs and drabs. Notably, ESPN’s Peter Keating in 2007 did much to expose the general conflicts of interest of NFL-affiliated doctors and researchers, and specifically revealed how Pitt Med Center clinicians involved in the marketing of Maroon’s for-profit ImPACT concussion management software manipulated the academic journal process to produce commercial hype.
The New York Times and The New Yorker are responsible for elevating the concussion issue from the sports pages to the national agenda. Times reporter Alan Schwarz gets the lion’s share of credit for ongoing federal government investigations of the safety claims of football helmet manufacturers, as well as the current proposed legislation introduced by Senator Tom Udall.
However, in my view, The Times frames the story inadequately. The Gray Lady would prefer to spur much too gentlemanly an outcome: a reprise of President Teddy Roosevelt’s football reforms of a century ago. The problem is that this sport and associated ones are no longer character-building rituals by Ivy League elites buffing their resumes in anticipation of careers on Wall Street and in other ruling-class institutions. Football today is a global multi-layered mega-industry. The urgency of reducing the human toll of this culture, across all classes and races, exceeds the scope of legislating helmets or any other piece of hardware, or mumbling bromides about changing the way players block and tackle.
In its January coverage of the controversy surrounding Riddell helmets, The Times quoted Dr. Maroon – co-author of the Neurosurgery article that was the basis for the company’s promotion – as claiming Riddell quoted him out of context. But Maroon (who doesn’t return my own calls or emails) was not asked if he ever so complained, in public or in private, prior to the initiation of a Federal Trade Commission investigation of Riddell.
In his January article in The New Yorker, “Does Football Have a Future?”, writer Ben McGrath quoted Maroon as calling The Times’ Schwarz “the Socratic gadfly in this whole mix.” Maroon added: “What we’re seeing now is [a] major cultural shift, and I think Alan took a lot of barbs, and a lot of hits, initially, for his observations.”
I am not accusing The New York Times, The New Yorker, Alan Schwarz, or Ben McGrath of being in the tank for Joseph Maroon or the NFL. I am just pointing out that those august journals have their job to do, and I have mine.
NEXT, Dr. Joseph Maroon & Neurosurgery 1999-2000: Origins of ‘ImPACT’
“Roundup of Coverage of Pittsburgh Steelers / NFL / WWE Doc Joseph Maroon’s Misstatements and Ethical Shortcuts on Concussion Research,” January 21, http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/roundup-of-coverage-of-pittsburgh-steelers-nfl-wwe-doc-joseph-maroon%E2%80%99s-misstatements-and-ethical-shortcuts-on-concussion-research/
“Sports Concussion Scandal Ground Zero: NFL and WWE Doc Joseph Maroon’shttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif Hype Article in Neurosurgery on Riddell Football Helmets,” January 23, http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/sports-concussion-scandal-ground-zero-nfl-and-wwe-doc-joseph-maroon%E2%80%99s-hype-article-in-%E2%80%98http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifneurosurgery%E2%80%99-on-riddell-football-helmets/
“Timeline of Dr. Joseph Maroon’s Work as WWE Medical Director,” January 24, http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/timeline-of-dr-joseph-maroon%E2%80%99s-work-as-wwe-medical-director/
“What the Feds Must Investigate About WWE-NFL Doc Joseph Maroon’s ImPACT Concussion Product,” March 23, http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/introducing-%E2%80%98what-the-feds-must-investigate-about-wwe-nfl-doc-joseph-maroon%E2%80%99s-impact-concussion-product%E2%80%99/
“Subpoena Cena: Does WWE Medical Director Joseph Maroon’s ImPACT System Manage Concussions Manage Concussions – Or Merely ‘Manage’ ‘Concussions’?”, March 23, http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/subpoena-cena-does-wwe-medical-director-joseph-maroon%E2%80%99s-impact-system-manage-concussions-%E2%80%93-or-merely-%E2%80%98manage%E2%80%99-%E2%80%98concussions%E2%80%99/
“FLASHBACK: ESPN’s Peter Keating Was First to Expose NFL and WWE Concusshttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifion Doc Joseph Maroon’s Conflicts of Interest,” March 24, http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/flashback-espn%E2%80%99s-peter-keating-was-first-to-expose-nfl-and-wwe-concussion-doc-joseph-maroon%E2%80%99s-conflicts-of-interest/
“In FoxSports.com Story, Doc Confirms Report on Ritalin and Beating Concussion Tests,” April 21, http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/in-foxsports-com-story-doc-confirms-report-on-ritalin-and-beating-concussion-tests/
“’ImPACT’ of Dr. Maroon’s and Colleagues’ Writings,” March 25, http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/impact-of-dr-maroons-and-colleagues-writings/