Currently Dr. Cantu’s professional responsibilities include those of Medical Director and Director of Clinical Research, Dr. Robert C. Cantu Concussion Center at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts, Clinical Professor of Neurology, Clinical and Therapeutics Leader AD and Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA; Founding member and Medical Director Concussion Legacy Foundation, Boston, 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, Adjunct Staff Department Neurosurgery and Senior Advisor Brain Injury Center Children’s Hospital Boston, Boston, MA; Boston, Chief of Neurosurgery Service and Director of Sports Medicine at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts. He serves on the Medical Science Committee of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Student/Athlete Concussion Injury Litigation Settlement and also on the NCAA Concussion Safety Advisory Group. He has served as a Neurosurgery Consultant to the Boston College Eagles Football Team and Boston Cannon’s Professional Lacrosse Team as well as the Co-Director of the Neurological Sports Injury Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. He has authored over 508 scientific publications, including 34 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. While working for five years in academic neurosurgery with Harvard Hospitals, Dr. Cantu simultaneously 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 and Medical Director and Director of Clinical Research at the Dr. Robert C. Cantu Concussion Center.
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 and Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of NOCSAE (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment).
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 has received recognition from the college being named as the recipient of their Citation Award in 1996. This year Dr. Cantu gave the organizations most prestigious J.B. Dill Lecture on the History of Concussions at ACSMs annual meeting in New Orleans.
As spokesperson for ACSM, he has participated in nationally televised sports programs speaking on diverse sports issues and has appeared on “Larry King Live” discussing the Chris Benoit case in conjunction with Chris’ father Michael Benoit, “ESPN Outside the Lines” discussing the Chris Benoit case, Canadian Television also discussing the Chris Benoit case as well as other media avenues, “NFL Today” with Bryant Gumbel and Terry Bradshaw, discussing the effect of artificial turf on cervical spine injuries, and football injuries on CNBC’s “The Real Story”. 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 and Kate Snow regarding gender and concussion incidence. He has been a spokesperson for ACSM on NASCAR deaths and safety issues surrounding NASCAR and has been interviewed for “World News Tonight” with Peter Jennings regarding NASCAR deaths and specifically Dale Earnhardt’s death as well as safety issues in auto racing. Dr. Cantu also appeared on “ABC World News Tonight” with Bob Jamison regarding the Korey Stringer death from heat stroke as well as WGBH Channel 2 in Boston, NPR radio interview, WEEI Boston radio interview and ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”, all discussing the issue of heat stroke. He has discussed the health issues of football players with Mary Carillo on HBOs Inside the NFL and has done an interview regarding sports related injuries in cheerleading on Inside the NFL. Dr. Cantu has also been interviewed by Bob Costas on HBOs Inside the NFL regarding Concussion in Professional Sports and was the key speaker on Designer Steroids for Comcast Cable Network. Dr. Cantu is currently serving as the Consultant for NOCSAE to the NFL Concussion Committee and 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. Dr. Cantu continues to be an outspoken advocate for the sport of boxing and continues to advocate for the safety of that sport and its participants. Dr. Cantu has done several interviews on Concussion in the NFL with ESPN, HBO and the Boston area news channels. Dr. Cantu has been involved with the NFL meeting in NYC regarding concussions and guidelines for concussions with Roger Goodell. Dr. Cantu has appeared on Brian Williams Rock Center with Kate Snow discussing concussion issues.
As an author of numerous books as well as articles on sports medicine topics, he 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 and medical management and return to play guidelines following head and spine sports injuries.
He has served as a consultant to many scholastic and professional athletes on the return to collision sports after a head injury or spine injury and is active speaking on a variety of health-related interests including the overall benefits of moderate regular exercise; the special health and exercise concerns of senior citizens; and sports safety issues with high school athletic trainers, coaches, students and parents. He was asked by the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to give two presentations at the NFL’s concussion meeting in Chicago and currently serves as a Senior Advisor to the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee.
Practicing what he preaches, Dr. Cantu has enjoyed long-distance running since 1967. An official entrant in many Boston Marathons, he has also enjoyed the “long runs” at Newport and New York City. Besides running, Dr. Cantu is a serious tennis player, for many years ranked in the men’s senior singles in New England (NELTA) region. Dr. Cantu has two children, Rob and Elizabeth and three grandchildren and lives with his wife Tina in Concord, Massachusetts.