The University of Washington has formed a special committee to investigate claims made in a congressional report that Richard Ellenbogen, chairman of UW’s Department of Neurological Surgery, tried to influence a major research study on football and brain injuries.
The University of Washington has formed a special committee to investigate claims made in a congressional report that Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, chairman of UW’s Department of Neurological Surgery, tried to influence a major research study on football and brain injuries.
Ellenbogen also serves as chairman of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee, and Congress named him one of the NFL’s “primary advocates” in an effort to strip a $16 million grant from a Boston University researcher who had been critical of the NFL, according to ESPN.
Ellenbogen had been part of a different group that made a failed bid for the $16 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, according to the congressional report.
“Dr. Ellenbogen is a primary example of the conflicts of interest between his role as a researcher and his role as an NFL advisor,” the report read.
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Ellenbogen vehemently denied any wrongdoing in a recent interview with USA Today, saying he wasn’t aware that his name was attached to one of the NIH grant proposals.
UW’s investigation was requested by Paul Ramsey, dean of the UW School of Medicine.
“We are currently reviewing the allegations that were made in the congressional report concerning Dr. Richard Ellenbogen and his role as an unpaid member of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee,” UW Medicine spokeswoman Susan Gregg said in a statement Thursday. “Dr. Ellenbogen did file for and receive approval from the UW School of Medicine to conduct outside work with the NFL. It is not uncommon for UW Medicine faculty to engage in work outside of their official duties at UW Medicine.”
UW received $434 million in research funding from NIH in 2015, ESPN reports.
An NFL spokesman said Ellenbogen has the “full support” of the league.
Last year, Ellenbogen was tapped as co-founder of the new UW Sports Health and Safety Institute, which received $2.5 million in startup funding from the NFL. Ellenbogen also worked on another research project, funded by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, in collaboration with the UW and the Allen Institute for Brain Science to study brain-related injuries.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly noted that Ellenbogen’s research project with the Allen Institute for Brain Science was funded by the NFL. It was funded by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.