Roger Goodell reaffirms commitment to funding concussion research

NEW YORK - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reaffirmed the league's commitment to concussion research in a letter Thursday to the 32 team owners.

In the wake of a congressional study that concluded that NFL officials tried to strong-arm the National Institutes of Health into taking away a project from a researcher the NFL feared was biased, Goodell called for "continued and robust support of independent medical research."

Goodell told the owners the league never considered not honoring a $30 million commitment to the NIH "in its entirety." He also stressed that the league will provide substantial additional funding for projects relating to safety equipment, treatment of athletes who have experienced concussions, and a study relating to the incidence and prevalence of long-term health consequences.

"We look forward to a productive and ongoing partnership with the NIH and others to advance our shared priorities, and to committing additional funding to medical research and engineering advances to enhance the safety of athletes at all levels," Goodell wrote.

Earlier this week, New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone said the NFL agreed to donate $30 million to the NIH to fund brain research. But the league backed out after the institutes went ahead with a $16 million grant to prominent Boston University researcher Robert Stern, the congressman said.

Stern is a leading expert on the link between football and brain diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

The government ultimately made the decision to have taxpayers fund the study.

The NFL denied Pallone's findings on Monday. The league acknowledged it raised concerns about the study and a potential conflict of interest involving Stern. But NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league communicated its concerns through appropriate channels.

On Thursday, Goodell emphasized that the league stands behind its $30 million promise. He pointed to league-funded studies through the NIH, Boston University School of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Mount Sinai Hospital; and grants for six pilot projects totaling more than $2 million to provide support for the early stages of sports-related concussion projects.