ROBERT CANTU, MD
Clinical Professor, Department of Neurosurgery; Co-Director, Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
Chief of Neurosurgery Service; Chairman, Department of Surgery; Director of Sports Medicine, Emerson Hospital, Concord, MA
Co-Director, Neurologic Sports Injury Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA
Currently Dr. Cantu’s professional responsibilities include those of Clinical Professor Department of Neurosurgery and Co-Director Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA; Founding member and Chairman Medical Advisory Board Sports Legacy Institute, Waltham, MA; Adjunct Professor Exercise and Sport Science and Medical Director National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC; Co-Director, Neurologic Sports Injury Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Chief of Neurosurgery Service, Chairman Department of Surgery, and Director of Sports Medicine at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts, Neurosurgical Consultant Boston Eagles football team, and Neurosurgical Consultant Boston Cannons professional soccer team. Dr. Cantu also consults with numerous NFL, NHL and NBA teams.
He has authored over 325 scientific publications, including 22 books on neurology and sports medicine, in addition to numerous book chapters, peer-reviewed papers, abstracts and free communications, and educational videos. He has served as associate editor of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise and Exercise and Sports Science Review, and on the editorial board of The Physician and Sports Medicine, Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, and Journal of Athletic Training. In 2003 Dr. Cantu became the section head for the Sports Medicine Section of Neurosurgery.
He grew up in the northern California community of Santa Rosa. In 1960, he received his B.A. degree from the University of California Berkley where he pitched on the varsity baseball team. Jointly, in medical school and graduate school, he received his M.A. degree in endocrinology in 1962, and in 1963, his M.D. from the University of California Medical School in San Francisco. Following a surgical internship at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City in 1963-1964, he began a neurosurgery residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and simultaneous position of research fellow in physiology at Harvard Medical School. Upon completion of his residency in 1968, he joined the neurosurgery staff at MGH, where his practice and laboratory were located, while assuming the position of acting assistant director of neurosurgery and director of pediatric neurosurgery at Boston City Hospital. After five yeas of academic neurosurgery with Harvard hospitals, Dr. Cantu entered private neurosurgery practice at the suburban Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts, where he currently serves as Chairman Department of Surgery, Chief Neurosurgical Service and Director Service of Sports Medicine. In addition to his professional responsibilities, Dr. Cantu is medical director of the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, an ongoing registry instituted in 1982 for data collection and analysis of spine and head injuries. From this data important contributions have been made in sport safety and accident reduction; most notably football rule changes concerning tackling and blocking with the head, the establishment of football helmet standards, improved on-the-field medical care, and coaching techniques. He also serves on the Board of Trustees as Vice President of NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment). Dr. Cantu also is Co-Director of the Neurological Sports Injury Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA.
For many years, Dr. Cantu has been actively involved with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the oldest and largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world, and served as President of this organization from 1992 to 1993 and served as treasurer from 1996 to 1999. Dr. Cantu was the recipient of their Citation Award in 1996. This year Dr. Cantu gave the organization’s prestigious J.B. Dill Lecture on the History of Concussions at ACSM’s annual meeting in New Orleans.
Dr. Cantu’s 2009 media appearances include, among others, testimony before Congress on the NFL and Concussions, CNN with Lou Dobbs on the NFL Congressional Hearings, CNN Saturday Morning Live’s Head Injuries in Football, and 60 Minutes’ Concussions and Head Injuries in Football.
Dr. Cantu has participated in nationally televised sports programs speaking on diverse sports issues, appearing on Larry King Live and ESPN Outside the Lines to discuss the Chris Benoit case, NFL Today to discuss the effect of artificial turf on cervical spine injuries, and CNBC’s The Real Story to discuss football injuries. He has been interviewed for World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Dan Rather, and NBC Evening News with Brian Williams regarding gender and concussion incidence. He has been a spokesperson for ACSM on NASCAR deaths and safety issues surrounding NASCAR. Dr. Cantu also appeared on ABC World News Tonight with Bob Jamison, WGBH Boston, NPR, WEEI Boston, and ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” regarding the Korey Stringer case and the issue of heat stroke. He has discussed concussion in professional sports, health issues of football players and sports related injuries in cheerleading on HBO’s Inside the NFL. Dr. Cantu was the key speaker on designer steroids for Comcast Cable Network. As co-chairman for the NASCAR Safety Task Force with ACSM. Dr. Cantu has done safety presentations for drivers and teams of CART as well as NASCAR. Dr. Cantu has been interviewed by ESPN Outside the Lines’ Tom Friend regarding Baby Joe Mesi and his return to boxing after a controversial subdural hematoma, and continues to be an outspoken advocate for the sport of boxing and the safety of the sport and its participants. Recently Dr. Cantu conducted several interviews on Concussion in the NFL with ESPN, HBO and the Boston area news channels. Dr. Cantu was involved with the NFL meeting in NYC regarding concussions and guidelines for concussions with Roger Goodell.
As an author of numerous books and articles, Dr. Cantu is frequently invited to participate in symposiums addressing a wide range of sports medicine topics including anabolic steroid use, eating disorders in female athletes, acute and chronic brain injury in boxing, and on-the-field evaluation, medical management, and return to play guidelines following head and spine sports injuries.
Dr. Cantu has served as a consultant to many scholastic and professional athletes on the return to collision sports after a head or spine injury, and speaks on a variety of health-related interests, including the overall benefits of moderate regular exercise, special health and exercise concerns of senior citizens, and sports safety issues for high school athletic trainers, coaches, students and parents. He currently serves as the neurosurgical consultant to the Boston College Eagles football team, as well as neurosurgical consultant to the Boston Cannons professional soccer team. He recently was asked by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to present at the 2009 NFL concussion meeting in Chicago.
Practicing what he preaches, Dr. Cantu has enjoyed long-distance running since 1967. An official entrant in multiple Boston Marathons, he has also enjoyed the “long runs” in Newport and New York City. Besides running, Dr. Cantu is an avid tennis player, ranked for many years in the men’s senior singles in New England (NELTA) region. Dr. Cantu has two children, Rob and Elizabeth and lives with his wife Tina in Lincoln, Massachusetts.