UW News

April 1, 2010

UW Medicine neurosurgeon to co-chair National Football League injury committee

Instead of kicking back and watching Monday Night Football, Dr. Richard G. Ellenbogen, UW Medicine’s chair of neurological surgery, will be making some policy calls for the National Football League as he becomes the co-chair of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Medical Committee.

Football Commissioner Roger Goodell recently announced that Ellenbogen along with Dr. Hunt Batjer, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, have been named as the new co-chairs of the committee.

“I am honored to be participating in a program that recognizes the widespread problem of concussion, which occurs in a wide spectrum of our population, from student-athletes to soldiers to NFL players,” Ellenbogen said. “Through our actions, research and advocacy, we hope to improve the prevention and treatment of this public health issue for athletes in all sports and at all levels of play.”

“In our ongoing commitment to the health, safety and well-being of our players, we conducted an extensive search to find the new leaders of our committee, and we are extremely pleased that Dr. Ellenbogen and Dr. Batjer have agreed to lead the team,” Goodell said. “These doctors are renowned experts in the field of head and spine injury, and they will strengthen our leadership role in research, education, prevention and treatment of these injuries in sports.”

The mission of the committee includes:

  • Ensuring that NFL team medical staffs have access to the best technology and research for the prevention and treatment of head, neck and spine injuries.

  • Studying injury data and equipment research to assist NFL teams in providing the safest environment for minimizing injuries to the head, neck and spine.

  • Examining the latest treatment strategies and recommending best practices regarding treatment of injuries to the head, neck and spine.

  • Joining with the NFL Alumni Association to support additional research on the long-term impact of concussions and related injuries.

  • Encouraging and supporting research and education to increase public awareness about the treatment and prevention of head, neck and spine injuries.

Ellenbogen is professor and chairman of neurological surgery at UW Medicine. He is also the Theodore S. Roberts Endowed Chair of Neurological Surgery, chief of neurological surgery at Harborview Medical Center, an attending neurosurgeon at Seattle Children’s, and the residency director of the Neurological Surgery Training Program. He is past president of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and currently an officer with the American Society of Pediatric Neurological Surgeons.

He is also co-director of the Seattle Sports Concussion Program and a key advocate for the “Zackery Lystedt Law,” the first state law requiring that youth athletes in organized sports receive medical clearance before returning to play after suffering a head injury. The Seattle Sports Concussion Program is a UW Medicine/Seattle Children’s joint clinical venture, which cares for student athletes with concussion throughout the WWAMI region. He was formerly chief of neurosurgery and residency program director at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for his meritorious service to head injured soldiers during the Desert Storm war in Iraq.