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Health Highlights: Sept. 15, 2016

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

NFL Pledges $100 Million to Fight Concussions

The National Football League will spend $100 million on an initiative to boost safety in the game and to prevent, diagnose and treat head injury, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodall announced Wednesday.

The NFL and its 32 club owners will provide the funds, which are aimed at engineering advancements and medical research, according to CNN.

The new pledge comes on top of a prior $100 million commitment by the NFL to fight head injury and concussion, with those funds earmarked for medical and neuroscientific research.

The new initiative, called Play Smart Play Safe, requires that a physician be hired as the NFL's chief medical officer, CNN said. The doctor will collaborate with each team's medical staff and create an independent scientific advisory panel that will evaluate head injury research proposals.

The new funding is the latest in a series of steps taken by the NFL following revelations of lasting brain damage in retired NFL players, linked to concussions suffered during their careers.

In 2012, a class-action lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of more than 2,000 NFL players. That suit accused the NFL of negligence and failing to notify players of the link between concussions and brain injury.

In 2015, a federal judge approved a final settlement of the lawsuit, which granted up to $5 million to each retired player who experienced serious medical issues tied to repeated head trauma.

The NFL has already made 42 changes to its rules to try to protect players, and each game is now staffed with 29 medical professionals, Goodall said in a statement.

Black Doctors Urge President Obama to Ban Menthol Cigarettes

A group of black physicians has sent a letter to President Barack Obama, calling on him to ban the sales of menthol-flavored cigarettes.

Government data shows that these cigarettes are highly favored by black smokers, NBC News reported.

In their letter, the African-American Tobacco Control Leadership Council urges Obama to use his clout with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban menthol cigarettes.

"What we are asking of you, President Obama, can be accomplished rapidly with the stroke of a pen," the group said in its letter. "Your strong and decisive leadership can give our community a fighting chance against the number one killer of black people, tobacco."

According to the American Lung Association, smoking-related illnesses remain the leading preventable cause of death for black Americans, leading to 45,000 fatalities per year. And in 2013, the FDA released a report stating that menthol cigarettes are potentially even more of a health threat than regular cigarettes.

As Dr. Phillip Gardiner, co-chair of the council, told NBC News, "the punchline here about menthol is it allows the poisons in tobacco cigarettes to go down easier." He added that, "young African-Americans die disproportionately from tobacco-related disease compared to other people in the population."

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