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As Concussion Crisis Mounts, NFL Turns To ... Cardiology Specialist?03:03

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Dr. Elizabeth Nabel is the president of Brigham and Women's Hospital, and now the chief health and medical adviser for the NFL. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)closemore
Dr. Elizabeth Nabel is the president of Brigham and Women's Hospital, and now the chief health and medical adviser for the NFL. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Dr. Elizabeth Nabel is the president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. I know of no reason to assume that she is not doing a fine job. The hospital has a solid reputation in a city full of reputable hospitals.

Dr. Nabel’s specialty is cardiology, and I read recently that in her previous position with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, she helped establish a campaign to raise awareness of heart disease in women, which was no doubt a worthy and necessary effort.

They avoided a neurologist with experience in brain trauma who might have been able to devote more than one day a month to addressing a problem the league hopes you will ignore.

But 100 days ago, when the National Football League announced that Dr. Nabel would become the league’s chief health and medical adviser, I wondered about the choice.

Experience as a hospital administrator would not seem to be the key qualification for a person charged with advising the heads of an industry where the most significant problem is a 30 percent rate of brain damage among the workforce.

Success as the developer of a campaign to raise awareness of heart disease in women may have some relevance to addressing brain injuries in men, but it’s a shaky kind of relevance, isn’t it? Nothing in Dr. Nabel’s resume suggests expertise in head trauma.

I’m not suggesting that the NFL shouldn’t have named a woman to the post Dr. Nabel holds. Surely there are women who’ve made their names researching chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, and some of the other conditions related to multiple head injuries. Surely there are men who can make that claim, too.

She further said that she spends about one day per month and some nights and weekends working for the NFL, which is not surprising, because being president of an enormous hospital is a tough job that probably takes up a lot of time.

All of which suggests that the NFL is not so dumb when it comes to choosing a medical adviser.

They avoided a neurologist with experience in brain trauma who might have been able to devote more than one day a month to addressing a problem the league hopes you will ignore.

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