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NFL names Johns Hopkins' Dr. Nicholas Theodore chairman of Head, Neck and Spine Committee

A Johns Hopkins University neurosurgeon, Dr. Nicholas Theodore, has been named chairman of the NFL's Head, Neck and Spine Committee, the league announced Thursday. The committee is made up of independent and NFL-affiliated physicians and scientists, including advisors for the NFL Players Association.

Theodore and other experts who volunteer on the committee will advise the NFL on medical policies, procedures and protocols, in addition to identifying and recommending medical research that affects the health and safety of NFL players.

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The Donlin M. Long Professor of Neurosurgery, Orthopaedics and Biomedical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Univerity School of Medicine, Theodore, 54, is also director of the Johns Hopkins Neurosurgical Spine Center.

"I have a passion for football, but also for caring for patients who've suffered traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries," Theodore said. "The exciting thing here is how we can better diagnose the problem, point the research in a specific direction and, ultimately, come up with things that we don't have right now, like imaging for mild and traumatic brain injuries. That research is going on right now, and our goal is to get that data together and make everything safer."

Theodore joined Johns Hopkins in 2016 and has served as the team neurosurgeon for the Arizona Cardinals and as a consultant to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes.

"At the NFL, we are grateful for the medical and scientific experts who shape our health and safety initiatives, and I look forward to working with Dr. Theodore in his new leadership position," NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said in a release. "His clinical expertise — in addition to his extensive experience in injury prevention — will further advance our commitment to player health and safety."

Until June 2016, Theodore was the Volker K. H. Sonntag Endowed Chair and Chief of the Spine Section in the Division of Neurological Surgery at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, where he worked on the development of Barrow Brainbook, a statewide concussion education program in Arizona.

A Cornell University graduate, Theodore attended medical school at Georgetown University. After an internship at Bethesda Naval Hospital, he served as senior general medical officer with the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa, Japan.

After completing his neurosurgical residency and fellowship in spinal surgery at the Barrow Neurological Institute in 2001, he served as chief of the division of neurosurgery at Naval Medical Center San Diego, overseeing the largest neurosurgery complement in the Navy.

Theodore is active in the area of preventative medicine within neurosurgery. He is the former medical director and president of the ThinkFirst Foundation, a national injury prevention and educational organization focused on brain and spinal injuries.

Baltimore Sun reporter Mike Klingaman contributed to this article.

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