On Tuesday, PBS aired the much anticipated “Frontline” documentary, “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.”
The documentary is based on the book “League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth,” written by brothers Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru.
It is an excellent look into uncovering the link between football and brain injuries, and the NFL’s efforts to protect its brand and deny the connection and danger of their sport.
If you haven’t seen it, you can watch the entire documentary at PBS.org.
From the beginning of the project, the NFL had no interest in helping Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada with the project.
In the '90s, then NFL commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, blamed the concussion issue on journalists and suggested there was no issue..
In 1994, Tagliabue did form a research committee to look into concussions and named Jets team doctor Elliot Pellman the chair. Pellman was not a brain doctor.
Pellman's committee published 16 papers denying serious long-term affects of concussions. One of the co-authors now has a problem with those papers.
In 2000, the NFL's retirement board made a stunning admission, linking football to brain trauma when ruling on disability payments for former Steelers center Mike Webster
After Dr. Bennet Omalu published papers showing the brains of two former NFL players (including Mike Webster) had suffered serious degenerative brain disease, Pellman's group attacked Omalu's work and demanded it be retracted.
Dr. Omalu did eventually meet with an NFL doctor that explained the implications of Omalu's research.
Even though Dr. Omalu had done the first research into Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), he was shunned by the NFL and now regrets getting involved.
A group at Boston University began researching the link between football and CTE and decided to present their research at Super Bowl 43 in 2009, but hardly anybody noticed.
When a study conducted by the NFL was leaked to the New York Times showing brain disorders were far higher in NFL players, the league was quick to dismiss their own study.
At a congressional hearing looking into how the NFL was handling the concussion crisis, the league took a big blow when it was compared to the tobacco industry.
After the hearings, the league changed its stance and finally admitted the link between football and brain trauma, but didn't seem happy about it.
Research has also shown evidence of early stages of CTE in young football players, leading Dr. McKee from the Boston University group to say she would not let her young children play the sport.
But has anything changed? After Junior Seau died, the NFL showed they were still trying to control the story when his brain was kept away from the groups that were at the center of CTE research and instead given to the National Institutes of Health.
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