The Washington Times - October 28, 2009, 01:41PM

I’m spending the day following the hearing on Capitol Hill centering around the issue of football and concussions, and so far I am struggling to find out what the story is.

Ok, perhaps the story is that there is a hearing in the first place, and it does appear there is some desire by member of Congress to gather data from the NFL and its union to study the long-term effects of football on a player’s brain. There is a considerable amount of evidence that points to a connection between football and increase rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but some disagreement on how definitive the current data is on the issue. 

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“We need an expeditious and independent review of all the data,” said Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan and chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary. 

But several other Congressmen said they didn’t believe it was an issue that required government intervention. 

“This should be left to people who are in better places and positions to answer these questions,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte of North Carolina, who decried any attempt to “micromanage athletics.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke, and seemed to say all the right things, but was non-committal when asked directly by Conyers whether he believed there was a connection between football-related concussions and brain problems later in life. 

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith was generally polite to Goodell, though in his opening statement he jabbed at the NFL’s refusal to embrace all of the medical studies on the issue. 

Former NFL Player Merrill Hoge, who retired due to multiple concussions, called for standards in how all head injuries should be treated, but credited the NFL with improvements in how it diagnosis and treats concussions. 

But Gay Culverhouse, who was president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1970s, said the competitive nature of football gives players an incentive to try and come back from concussions too soon.

“Players are in a position where they will not self-report, because they need the money.”

Stay tuned for the afternoon panel, which includes former NFL pro Tiki Barber and several doctors who have performed research on the issue of football and concussions.