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Goodell defends NFL to Congress about concussions

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The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday into the impact of head injuries on football players. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith both spoke to the committee.
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By FREDERIC J. FROMMER and HOWARD FENDRICH
The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 28, 2009; 1:35 PM

WASHINGTON -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would not acknowledge a connection between head injuries on the football field and later brain diseases while defending the league's policies on concussions before Congress.

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Under sometimes-contentious questioning from lawmakers - and suggestions about reconsidering the league's billions-generating antitrust exemption - Goodell sat at a witness table Wednesday alongside NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith.

Both men agreed to turn over players' medical records to the House Judiciary Committee.

Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., asked Goodell whether he thinks there's an injury-disease link. Goodell responded that the NFL isn't waiting for that debate to play out and is taking steps to make the game safer.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) - A House committee chairman said Wednesday he'll seek records on head injuries from the NFL players union, the NCAA, high schools and medical researchers to better understand football's health risks.

"We need an expeditious and independent review of all the data," Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., told a Judiciary Committee hearing, saying the problem is a "life and death" issue that warrants federal scrutiny.

"I say this not simply because of the impact of these injuries on the 2,000 current players and more than 10,000 retirees associated with the NFL and their families," Conyers said. "I say it because of the effect on the millions of players at the college, high school and youth levels."

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the panel, said that while Congress can highlight the consequences of playing football, "the NFL does not need Congress to referee this issue."

"Football, like soccer, rugby and even basketball and baseball, involves contact that can produce injuries," Smith said. "We cannot legislate the elimination of injuries from the games without eliminating the games themselves."

Gay Culverhouse, the former president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said that NFL team doctors are not player advocates, and called for an independent neurologist to be on the sidelines for games.

"Players get to a point where they refuse to tell the team doctor that they have suffered a concussion ... (because) they know there is a backup player sitting on the bench, waiting to take their position," Culverhouse said.


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