ESPN’s Peter Keating Was First to Expose NFL and WWE Concussion Doc Joseph Maroon’s Conflicts of Interest

Previously, I have tipped my hat to the reporting on the concussion issue by Alan Schwarz of The New York Times. Another journalistic giant on this story has been Peter Keating of ESPN The Magazine. More than three years ago, Keating looked into the mutually back-scratching relationships of the National Football League, neurological researchers, and the entrepreneurs of Dr. Joseph Maroon’s Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing system and their Pittsburgh company, imPACT Applications.

See the Keating article “NFL concussions expert also sells equipment to league,” August 10, 2007, http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=2967678.

This story is more focused on Maroon’s imPACT partner and co-founder, Dr. Mark Lovell, another University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-based NFL consultant. But it lays out the whole shady chain of events, including how Maroon and a third imPACT partner, Michael Collins (also from the Pitt team), glowingly peer-reviewed the oft-cited study, co-authored by Lovell, in the February 2006 issue of the journal Neurosurgery.

As someone who spent all of 2010 trying, without success, to elicit comment from Maroon or Pitt, I was struck by how Lovell never responded to questions or made himself available for an interview on ESPN’s Outside the Lines. A medical center spokeswoman gave Keating this lame quote: “These are very important issues that are too complicated to address in an edited 10-second sound-bite.”

Since the publication of Keating’s article, we all know a lot more:

  • Chris Nowinski’s Sports Legacy Institute has gotten off the ground.
  • WWE star Chris Benoit’s sensational double murder/suicide led to the examination of his brain tissue by Dr. Bennet Omalu and took to a new level the public’s understanding of Chronic Traumatic Encephelapothy.
  • Maroon became medical director for WWE. He has made a pattern of inaccurate and misleading public statements, and has enabled a significant company lie in ESPN’s coverage of the CTE findings for another dead wrestler, Andrew “Test” Martin.
  • Hearings of the House Judiciary Committee put a spotlight on the NFL’s inadequate and sometimes corrupt management of the concussion problem.
  • The Federal Trade Commission, spurred by Senator Tom Udall, has opened a probe of official NFL supplier Riddell’s helmet safety claims – based on league-funded research by Maroon and others at Pitt.

Senator Udall has opened the door a crack on a sordid tale of industrial death in the pro wrestling industry, and how the causes and costs resonate throughout the world of sports and American society.

In 2011, it will be up to Udall, Senator Richard Blumenthal, and others in the 112th Congress to kick that door wide open.

In the next post I will publish a rundown of this blog’s coverage of Dr. Joseph Maroon.

Irv Muchnick

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