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The concussion doctor’s tangled interests

Some say he plays both sides, casting a cloud over his efforts to cut football injuries

Click on the circles to learn more about Dr. Robert C. Cantu's relationships and connections.
NOCSAE
National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment
Background: Founded in 1969, its mission is to reduce athletic injuries and death through standards and certification for athletic equipment.
Cantu's relationship: Vice president for 17 years.
Potential conflict: NOCSAE gave research grants to entities connected to its board and scientific advisory committee, including $300,000 to the BU Center Cantu helped create.
Potential conflict: NOCSAE, the independent organization that creates football helmet safety standards, includes helmet makers and is almost entirely funded by them.
Football helmet makers
Background: All football helmet makers look to NOCSAE certification of helmets to protect players and reduce liability.
Cantu's relationship: Vice president for 17 years.
Potential conflict: NOCSAE, the independent organization that creates football helmet safety standards, includes helmet makers and is almost entirely funded by them.
Zenith
Background: Founded in 2004 by Vin Ferrara, a former Harvard quarterback, the upstart helmet maker is considered one of the industries major manufacturers.
Cantu's relationship: He publicly praises Xenith's X1 helmet.
Potential conflict: As a NOCSAE board member, Cantu served as an unpaid adviser to Xenith and publicly praised Xenith's X1 helmet. Xenith pledged to contribute in perpetuity $1 for every X1 helmet it sells, plus some matching funds, to an endowment Cantu co-founded.
Potential conflict: Has representation on the NOCSAE board.
NFL
National Football League
Cantu's relationship: Unpaid advisor to NFL's neck, head, and spine committee.
Potential conflict: The NFL has contributed to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, where Cantu is one of three co-directors.
NFLPA
National Football League Players Association
Background: The labor organization that represents professional American football players in the NFL.
Cantu's relationship: Advises players union.
NFL athletes
Potential conflict: Dr. Cantu has received consulting fees from lawyers for players who filed concussion-related lawsuits against the NFL. Before that, his BU-based center received a $1 million grant from the NFL.
NCAA athletes
Potential conflict: Cantu received at least $38,000 to advise former athletes suing the NCAA, one of NOCSAE's client.
NCAA
National Collegiate Athletic Association
Background:
Cantu's relationship: His research, and the efforts of the Sport Legacy Institute, have helped shape concussion policy and increase awareness across the country. Beneficiaries include the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, which serves most of the state's high schools.
Potential conflict: Cantu received at least $38,000 to advise former athletes suing the NCAA, one of NOCSAE's client.
NFHS
National Federation of High Schools
Background: A major client of NOCSAE, they write the rules of competition for most private and public high school sports and activities in the United States. The organization looks to NOCSAE for certification of equipment, particularly helmets, to protect players and reduce liability.
Cantu's relationship: His research, and the efforts of the Sport Legacy Institute, have helped shape concussion policy and increase awareness across the country through this organization.
MIAA
Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association
Background: They write the rules of competition for most private and public high school sports in Massachusetts. The organization looks to NOCSAE for certification of equipment, particularly helmets, to protect players and reduce liability.
Cantu's relationship: MIAA, which serves most of the state's high schools, is a major beneficiary of Cantu's research, and the efforts of the Sport Legacy Institute, that have helped shape concussion policy and increase awareness.
Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy
Background: Partnership between Boston University School of Medicine and Sports Legacy Institute studying how repeated hits to the head can lead to memory problems, depression, and dementia.
Cantu's relationship: Helped form center to conduct research.
Potential conflict: The NFL and NOCSAE have contributed to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, where Cantu is one of three co-directors.
Cantu-Guskiewicz Research Endowment for Sport Concussion
Background: Provides research grants to graduate students working on concussion-related research.
Cantu's relationship: Cofounded endowment to fund research.
Potential conflict: Xenith pledged to contribute $1 for every X1 helmet sold, plus some matching funds, to Cantu's endowment.
SLI
Sports Legacy Institute
Background: To advance the study, treatment, and prevention of the effects of brain trauma on athletes and other at-risk groups.
Cantu's relationship: Cofounded in 2007 as new medical research indicated sports concussions were a public health crisis.
Hit Count
Background: SLI program worked with six sensor companies to develop and promote guidelines to try to reduce brain injuries in sports.
Cantu's relationship: The SLI program is operated by the organization he cofounded.
MC10
Background: MC10's sensor product is the Checklight system.
Cantu's relationship: Isaiah Kacyvenski sits on the SLI board, the organization cofounded by Cantu and Chris Nowinski
Potential conflict: Kacyvenski and Nowinski had financial relationships with MC10.
Checklight
Background: The Checklight skull cap measures the frequency and severity of impacts and is sold by Reebok.
Cantu's relationship: Cantu has ties with two people with financial relationships with MC10, Checklight's manufacturer.
Potential conflict: Cantu promotes Checklight as a "more affordable high-tech option" on the market.

James Abundis, Bob Hohler/Globe Staff

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