The NFLPA's concussion and traumatic brain injury committee will address diagnosis, treatment and prevention of concussions and brain injuries in active players; and the long-term cumulative effects of isolated or repetitive traumatic brain injuries in NFL players as patients.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Sean Morey will chair the committee with union medical director Dr. Thom Mayer. It will also be comprised of other active players, former players, researchers in the field and physicians with expertise in neurological injuries.
"The health, safety and welfare of our players is never just an issue of collective bargaining," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said Friday. "While we have already raised this issue in the CBA negotiations and Dr. Mayer participated in the first meeting, this committee and the work we do around the health and safety of our players will extend much further.
"The creation of this committee was designed to bring both independence and expertise to the ongoing analysis of serious head injuries so we can better protect our players. I am confident that Sean Morey and Dr. Mayer will lead this team to gather more comprehensive data and provide real solutions for our players, both past and present."
A recent study commissioned by the NFL showed that retired players may have a higher rate than normal of Alzheimer's disease or other memory problems. Experts said that the work was not definitive but that it fit in with other studies suggesting a long-term risk from head injuries in sports.
In the new study, 1,063 ex-players were asked if they'd ever been diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer's disease or other memory-related disease. About 2 percent of the former players ages 30 to 49 said yes. That's 19 times the rate for the same age group in the general population.
For retirees over 50, the rate of about 6 percent was about five times higher.
The study, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, was done for the NFL by researchers at the University of Michigan.
The results show the topic is worth further study, but they do not prove a link between playing American football and later mental troubles, said lead author David Weir.
The study, which covered a variety of health and financial topics, relied on a telephone survey rather than a review of medical records, he noted. The information on memory problems came from a single question taken from earlier population surveys, and its vague wording makes the results hard to interpret, the researchers said.
"The study was not designed to diagnose or assess dementia," Weir said on Wednesday. "The study did not conclude that football causes dementia."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello agreed and said further study is already under way.
"Memory disorders affect many men and women who never played football or other sports," he wrote in an e-mail. "The survey makes no link between concussions and memory disorders."
Also Friday, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says he will hold hearings on head injuries among NFL players. The hearings will look at the lasting impact of head injuries, how to limit them, and how to compensate players and their families.
No dates have been set for the hearings.