Steinberg: Hoag Hospital to assess retired NFL players

By Daily Pilot

The Hoag Hospital Neurosciences Institute has been selected by Cleveland Clinic as the West Coast location for the Brain and Body Program provided through the NFL Players Assn. Trust. This means that retired NFL players will be coming to the Newport Beach facility to get complete physical assessments and recommendations for treatment.

"This is a great opportunity to support these remarkable athletes and their quest for health," Dr. Michael Brant-Zawadzki, executive medical director of the Institute said in a release. "Through our medical evaluation we hope to prevent disease and manage brain health. There is a vital educational component to our program".

The NFL is the nation's premiere sports league. It dominates television viewing and attendance and estimates are that 45 million fans play fantasy football every week. The toll playing takes on the human is frightening, akin to a traffic accident on every play. Retired athletes deal with a multiplicity of health issues, the most discouraging of which is brain damage.

I had a crisis of conscience in the 1980s as I watched 90 clients experience repetitive blows to the head and was motivated to hold a Player Safety Conference in Newport Beach in the early '90s with neurologists warning players as to the risk.

Hoag has done essential research and treatment to deal with the dangers of dementia and chronic traumatic encepalopothy that can follow collisions. The diagnosed concussions are but the tip of the iceberg.

A lineman could leave pro football with 10,000 or more subconcussive hits, none of which has been diagnosed. The aggregate of these hits almost certainly does more long-term damage than three knockout blows.

The Trust was established by the NFLPA to aid a holistic approach to former player transition.

"The region between San Diego is a highly populated area of former players," noted Bahati Van Pelt, executive director of the Trust. "With this in mind we added a medical partner in California to serve our members more efficiently."

Jay Alperts, director of the Cleveland Concussion Center, added, "Hoag is a natural partner, we share the same DNA. Caregivers at both institutions are committed to delivering world-class care."

Players will undergo a physical exam including musculoskeletal evaluation, brain MRI, cognitive evaluations, balance and sleep assessment, psychological assessment as well as nutrition and life skills counseling.

"By taking a proactive approach, this program can help retired NFL players who may be facing increased health risks," Brant-Zawadzki said. "The goal is to provide them best practice information and wellness tools."

In 2006 I presented quarterback Warren Moon at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Watching the way in which retired Hall of Fame players struggled to walk and move was painful.

There were a number of players who were cognitively impaired. They will be fortunate to have the expertise and resources of Hoag Hospital to live better, more productive lives.

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