NFL Medical Experts Take Part in Emerson Health’s Concussion Diagnosis and Management Conference

The Robert C. Cantu Concussion Summit was held on December 8, 2023, at the Cantu Concussion Center at Emerson Hospital in Concord, MA. The theme of the conference was “Prevention of Concussion and Long-Term Effects of Repetitive Traumatic Brain Injury (RTBI).” Dr. Robert Cantu (Emerson Hospital) and Dr. Allen Sills (Vanderbilt University, Chief Medical Officer, NFL) served as conference directors; Terrie Ennis, PT, MSPT (Emerson Hospital) and Dr. Gary Solomon (NFL) served as conference coordinators.

The goal of the meeting was for clinicians and researchers with experience and expertise in athletic brain injury and long-term cognitive disorders to gather and share their findings, with a goal of identifying gaps in current research that need to be addressed. The meeting was supported by an unrestricted educational grant from the NFL.

The conference consisted of three major sessions. Each session consisted of five to six 15- to 20-minute didactic presentations followed by a panel discussion among all participants.

Session 1 was “Pathophysiology of Athletic Concussion (Traumatic Brain Injury) and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.” The invited speakers included Drs. Anne McKee (Boston University), Jeffrey Bazarian (University of Rochester Medical School), Thor Stein (Boston University), Dirk Keene (University of Washington), and Kevin Bieniek (UT Health-San Antonio). The panel discussion for this session included the speakers along with Dr. Robert Cantu (Emerson Hospital) and Dr. Carmela Tartaglia (University of Toronto).

The focus of Session 2 was “Concussion/RTBI Prevention.” The invited speakers were Drs. Christina Mack (IQVIA), Jeff Crandall (Biocore), Kristy Arbogast (University of Pennsylvania), William Meehan (Harvard University), Jesse Mez (Boston University) and Michael Alosco (Boston University). The speakers were joined in the panel discussion by invited participants Drs. John Leddy (University at Buffalo), Rob Cantu (Connecticut Valley Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine), and Allen Sills (Vanderbilt University/NFL).

The third session addressed “Diagnosing CTE in the Living.” Invited speakers included Drs. Robert Cantu (Emerson Hospital), Douglas Katz (Boston University), Daniel Daneshvar (Boston University), Christopher Nowinski (Boston University), Ross Zafonte (Harvard University), and Grant Iverson (Harvard University). The panel discussion included the speakers and invited participants Drs. David Okonkwo (University of Pittsburgh) and Gary Solomon (NFL).

The speakers and panelists met at the conclusion of all presentations and panel discussions and agreed on the following statements:

  1. Eliminate intentional or avoidable head impact in contact and collision sports in both practices and games.
  2. Encourage policies and rules that limit the number, duration, and intensity of contact sport practices.
  3. Reinforce proper and safer techniques that avoid head contact at all levels of play.
  4. Implement rules of play that reduce and penalize intentional or avoidable contact to the head and neck.
  5. Correlating specific clinical symptoms with CTE neuropathology remains an important area for further investigation.
  6. Improve the criteria for Traumatic Encephalopathy Syndrome (TES) through further research.

The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football league consisting of 32 teams, divided equally between the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). The NFL is one of the four major