Rep. Pascrell: NCAA’s Main Concern Should be Athlete Safety

In 2009 Montclair High School football player Ryan Dougherty died on the field of secondary impact concussion. Representative Bill Pascrell co-founded the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force and got legislation passed, calling for guidelines and strict protocols for treating sports-related concussions. Pascrell told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that the NCAA’s main concern should be the safety of athletes, not money.

Pascrell said that the protocols have not been established yet and that is the problem. He said that he wanted to pass the Contact Act which would have allowed professionals to set up that protocol. He said that what he is doing now is asking the agencies that deal with mental health in Washington to establish those protocols without having to pass legislation.

Pascrell said that the NCAA is supposed to follow their own protocols. He said that it is interesting that NCAA will pass a penalty for a school when they send out letters that are too large or too small during recruitment. He said they have a measurement for letters but not for traumatic brain injury or concussion on the field. He said this is a male and female issue because the skulls of a young lady are softer than the skulls of men. He said that to protect people is another thing but at least people are talking about it now.

On Dec. 1, Pascrell renewed his call for the NCAA to implement mandatory concussion management guidelines on caring for concussions and assessing penalties for violations of those guidelines. He said that NCAA did not respond but it takes them time to move. He said that their main concern has been with the money but the concern should be about the safety of all of their athletes so that it carries down into New Jersey hometowns so that kids are protected. He said that he does not know who to protect the kids unless the protocols become part of the law.

In his letter, Pascrell said that NCAA’s approach has been inadequate. “I was being charitable. What I could said about the NFL 10 years ago that, which I did, because they were sweeping everything under the rug. When I saw the NFL football players that were vegetables at 42, 45 years of age, I said look I’ve been fighting for our soldiers who were neglected many, many times in Iraq and Afghanistan with a signature injury of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I said, NFL you have got to come top the table here. You have got to deal with these people because it is unfair, it’s inhumane,” said Pascrell.

Pascrell said that in the past six or seven years there has been more research for brain injuries. He said that President Barack Obama instituted two years ago to put a lot of money into the new frontier, the discovery of the brain so that people are treated as human beings even if they have an incapacity. He said they deal with the development of those cells that are not damaged so the person can overcome the situation. He said that soldiers are being helped right now.

On another note, Pascrell bucked Democratic party last week and sided with Republicans in opposing tax breaks, including some that he said a day earlier were important to New Jersey residents. Pascrell said he did this because, “To pass legislation and to try to fool people who think it is going to be something in the future, this was for two weeks, it was going to expire Jan. 1. What we have done now is simply waited the whole year, come to the point of when these tax breaks are expiring, and then pass it. I am not going to hire people for the next year if I know that I am going to have to do this all over again.”