WVU Neurosurgeon Addresses NFL Head Injuries in GQ magazine September 24th, 2009 Julian Bailes, M.D., chair of the West Virginia University Department of Neurosurgery, is hopeful that the National Football League will soon implement several changes that would protect its players from head trauma. In the October issue of GQ magazine in a story headlined “This Is Your Brain on Football,” Dr. Bailes says, “Here we have a multibillion-dollar industry. Where does their responsibility begin? Say you’re a kid and you sign up to play football. You realize you can blow out your knee, you can even break your neck and become paralyzed. Those are all known risks. But you don’t sign up to become a brain-damaged young adult. The NFL should be leading the world in figuring this out, acknowledging the risk.” Bailes is featured in GQ along with neuropathologist Bennet Omalu, M.D., and Wheeling-based attorney Bob Fitzsimmons. Together, the three have established the Brain Injury Group, a brain bank and laboratory to study brain injuries. It is housed at the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute at WVU. Dr. Omalu and Bailes have studied the brains of almost 20 athletes whose lives took disastrous and baffling turns – all ending in violent deaths at a very young age. Their brains were found to have serious damage that Bailes believes was most likely caused by repeated concussions. Bailes is also studying other possible contributing factors. Omalu and Bailes found similar damage in the brain of deceased professional wrestler Chris Benoit, who killed his family and himself in 2007. In the GQ article, writer Jeanne Marie Laskas describes Morgantown as “surrounded by blue firs and green hardwoods, a town tucked in the folds of the Appalachian Basin, where coal still moves sleepily in and out on barges along the slim Monongahela River. The university – and its world-class health care complex – is by far the biggest thing going.” The October issue of GQ is on newsstands.
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