May 19, 2021 The sport of professional football is recognized worldwide with players and team news and weekly games daily broadcasted to cheering fans. There are, however, many things the fans don’t see or recognize that happen off the field. One of these is the work of medical professionals, that every NFL team has, who work tirelessly to both treat and prevent injuries of the players off the field. Dr. Joseph Maroon has held the position of Head Neurosurgical Consultant for the Pittsburgh Steelers for over 30 years. He was the first full-time neurosurgical consultant for any NFL team when he was asked to join the Steelers, by former United States Ambassador to Ireland and Steelers owner, the late Dan Rooney.
The image posted of Steelers owner Art Rooney II and Dr. Maroon at a recent dinner held by the Steelers to honor both Dr. Maroon and long-time Lead Physician of the Steelers Medical Team, Dr. Tony Yates for their years of service.
The service award is a silver football helmet engraved with Dr. Maroon’s years of service as Head Neurosurgical Consultant to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dr. Maroon will remain with the Steelers in an advisory role. Dr. Maroon is also vice chairman and professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at UPMC and is recognized as one of the top experts on sport-related injuries to the spine and brain. In addition to co-developing ImPACT Concussion Testing, early on during his association with the Steelers, he served on the NFL Head and Neck Committee that developed concussion prevention advancements and rule changes that are used today in all contact sports.
In addition to his work with the Steelers, Dr. Maroon also serves as chairman of the national scientific advisory board of the Chuck Noll Foundation which supports research into traumatic brain injuries in sports. There have been over 20 research projects focusing on concussion that have been funded thus far.
Dr. Maroon often relates the story of how he had to tell then Steelers head coach Chuck Noll that the quarterback, Bubby Brister, would not be able to play in an upcoming game because of a concussion. Noll was perplexed. He told Maroon that Brister looked fine and acted fine all week, and wanted to know what evidence-based data led Maroon to that decision. Maroon said he was merely abiding by guidelines drawn up by experts on concussions at that time that said a player with a concussion must sit out a minimum two games. The National Football League did not have specific guidelines at the time.
“Chuck said, ‘Look, if you want time to keep a player out, OK, but I want objective data, not specious guidelines without factual basis,’” Maroon said. “Now I’m thinking, who is he to tell me about this? But I thought about it and said, you know what, he was right.”