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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Barnes-Jewish Teams with NFL on Retiree Care

St. Louis Business Journal

Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the Washington University School of Medicine will participate in a new neurological care program for retired NFL players announced Wednesday by the National Football League and the NFL Alumni Association.

The St. Louis hospital is one of only five medical centers across the country selected for the program.

Each center will provide retired players with a team of specialists to evaluate and treat possible neurological conditions. The teams will be led by a neurologist who will serve as a program director. Dr. David Brody, an assistant professor of neurology at the Washington University School of Medicine, will lead the effort at Barnes-Jewish.

The program is one of several initiatives by the NFL to address health care and quality of life issues for the league’s retirees. It comes as greater attention is being placed on the long-term neurological effects of concussions and other head trauma common in professional football.

Brody’s team includes St. Louis neurologist Dr. Maurizio Corbetta; neuropsychologists Drs. Robert Fucetola and Nicole Schwarze; and neuroradiologists Drs. Tammie Benzinger and Joshua Shimony. Together they have studied the effects and treatment of repetitive traumatic brain injuries on athletes, military personnel and others for several years with the financial backing of grants from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense. Such injuries can cause cognitive abnormalities, emotional changes, seizures and other problems.

Brody said he hopes the hospital’s new affiliation with the NFL will raise additional awareness of concussive brain injuries as well as help Barnes-Jewish and other participating medical centers to raise funding for additional research.

“We hope to develop systematic approaches to brain trauma assessment in St. Louis, and treatment to improve the quality of care,” Brody said. “We should now have a critical mass of organized physicians and scientists who can put together some meaningful protocols.”

The program is available to retired players vested under the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan. Players who cannot afford treatment may apply to the NFL Player Care Foundation for a grant to cover some or all of the costs of treatment.

The other participating medical centers, selected for their “expertise, high-quality service and reputation,” are Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta; Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City; the University of Southern California School of Medicine and its hospital affiliates in Los Angeles; and the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.