For Elliot Pellman, the Hippocratic Oath commanding doctors to do no harm was never an ethical problem he had to deal with because it never entered his thick skull. A rheumatologist who attended a Guadalajara medical school, Pellman was as short on morals as he was on hair. It's hard to tell what Pellman will be remembered for better: as one of the top doctors for the NFL's fight against CTE; his shrill whining when confronted with any validated facts or how many times he lied about his résumé.
"The fight against CTE" means just that. Pellman spearheaded the NFL's plan to cover its ears and ululate whenever someone dared mention those three letters in any medical context. He worked feverishly to discredit CTE's discoverer, Dr. Bennet Omalu, denied any link between concussions and neurodegenerative disease and threatened to pull funding from league-backed studies when they got too close to the truth. He was the sort of figure that some sports publication would ask every few years, "why is he still involved with the league?"
That 30-year saga ended Wednesday when Pellman was forced to "retire" in one of the most bloodless ways possible. Ian Rapoport states that the move was "aimed at building trust from players & fans," which is to say the NFL didn't actually give a damn about Pellman's longstanding history of harm by obfuscating facts and the concussion crisis; he was just a villainous figure considered expendable in a hackneyed PR ploy to earn cheap praise.
In a memo sent to clubs today, @nflcommish says Dr. Elliot Pellman has agreed to retire. A move aimed at building trust from players & fans.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 20, 2016
On the Lions side of things, this must be a personal moment of joy for linebacker DeAndre Levy, who has been outspoken about Pellman's continued role, in the face of all reason, on the NFL's Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee. Levy has been critical about Pellman's continued role as a hack and CTE obfuscation expert. In 2016, DeAndre Levy posted several social media posts questioning Pellman's credibility and continued role in the NFL in spite of mainstream attention to his methods thanks to "League of Denial" and the movie "Concussion."
"The NFL’s interactions with NIH and approach to funding the BU study fit a longstanding pattern of attempts to influence the scientific understanding of the consequences of repeated head trauma. These efforts date back to the formation of the NFL’s now-discredited MTBI Committee, which attempted to control the scientific narrative around concussions in the 1990s." Elliot Pellman is still employed as your "muscle" for the dirty work, huh? #NFL
In a letter to the Detroit Free Press, Levy explained his social media comments:
"Compensation isn't an excuse to hide or downplay the facts. We need to know the risks and the rewards. This is an area in which the league has failed its players...while the research of medical experts and doctors tells us there potentially is a direct link between football and CTE, voices continue to emerge telling us otherwise. And you have to question why. What IS the harm in being transparent about the depth of risks that accompany this sport?"
"The only voices we have on the subject are the league, which, unfortunately, has shown it can't be trusted. So far, we've had a rheumatologist with questionable credentials telling us that there is no link between concussions and CTE, and aided in covering it up, yet is still employed by the NFL. I felt my initial questions about Elliot Pellman were fair, and every employee, fan and potential NFL player has the right to know the answer."
There's no reason to praise the NFL for this move. It is the bare minimum they could do, and they still did it years late. It's no sign that the NFL will actually change its stance on how it approaches CTE research. Pellman was useful one last time to feed to the pundits and fans as a scapegoat. The truth is that the NFL let this nitwit run roughshod for years and silently approved all of his madness because the league didn't want to address the fact that they had this crisis in their midst. That said, there's no harm in a little schadenfreude at the good doctor's expense. He left the game of football as he found it; battered, embattled, concussed and with no real answer in sight.