Interviewer: Is there any evidence, as far as you’re concerned, that links multiple head injuries among pro football players with depression?
Interviewer: With dementia?
Interviewer: With early onset of Alzheimer’s?
Interviewer: Is there any evidence as of today that links multiple head injuries with any long-term problem like that?
Casson: In NFL players?
The above is not a made up story, in fact it is on video for everyone to see and make their own judgements. Patrick Hruby of Yahoo! Sports and “The Post Game.” has written yet ANOTHER very good article about concussions. This one delves into the hot water the NFL is finding itself in; if not in court then in public opinion – if anyone cares to look at the information.
Because the NFL doesn’t just have a legal duty to the helmet-smashing men who make its profits possible. It has a moral duty, too. And on that front, the league has failed.
Failed miserably, in fact.
Start with the science. Medical research dating back to the 1920s indicates that suffering multiple blows to the head that are not allowed to properly heal can result in degenerative and irreversible cognitive impairment — known in boxing as “punch drunkenness.” Yet despite presiding over a violent contact sport in which both concussions and sub-concussive head hits are de rigueur — and that’s just during practice — the NFL did not formally begin to investigate the issue until 1994, when the league formed its Committee on Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Heading the group? Former New York Jets team doctor Elliot Pellman. Not a neurologist. A rheumatologist.
Hruby takes a look at not only the timeline, but the constant inconsistencies with this issue. Not only does it appear that the league has had its “head in the sand”, it knowingly put it there to avoid possible issues to the mega-billion dollar industry. Take the case of Dr. Bennet Omalu for example;
The worst example of the league’s see-no-evil approach came when forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu dissected the brain tissue of dead NFL players such as Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame center Mike Webster. Omalu published an article in the academic journal Neurosurgery concluding that football-related head trauma caused the players to suffer the mind-destroying disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Pellman and two other committee members didn’t just blow Omalu off — they wrote a letter to the journal attempting to discredit his research. According to a scathing 2009 GQ magazine article, the NFL repeatedly dismissed Omalu before sending an independent expert to examine his work in 2008. The expert, neuropathologist Peter Davies, initially was skeptical — that is, until he saw Omalu’s slides, which contained the brain tissue of once-mad, now-deceased football players. “The credit must go to Bennet Omalu,” Davies told the magazine. “Because he first reported this and nobody believed him, nobody in the field, and I’m included in that. I did not think there was anything there. But when I looked at the stuff, he was absolutely right. I was wrong to be skeptical.”
As I have stated many times before, if the grown-up adults want to accept the full risks of the game and be like Brian Urlacher, amongst others, fine. However, they must understand that many eyes are watching them, including kids and the potential future of the league. The elephant in the room continues to be when did the league know, and how was it handled after finding out.
For many past players they too want to know the answer to that question;
Pear concurs. He says he made just over $600,000 in his pro football career. He says he has spent all of it and more on medical bills. A plaintiff in one of the concussion lawsuits, he isn’t looking to make a quick buck. He’s simply trying to survive. “I’m going to have medical bills the rest of my life from playing football,” he says. “I want to be compensated for what the NFL has put myself and my family through. I want to see all my football brothers compensated. I want to see the NFL be to be honest about the sport. It’s hazardous to your health.” A few years ago, Pear’s phone rang. Goodell was on the line. He wanted to talk. Pear says he had been getting a bureaucratic runaround from league and players association disability services, that he needed help and had gotten nowhere. He also runs a blog that acts as a kind of clearinghouse and group therapy session of for retired players, many of them disaffected and struggling, some of them now concussion plaintiffs as well. The commissioner wanted to know what the problems were, and how he could help. “I made him listen to my grievance for 25 minutes,” Pear recalls. “He kept trying to get off the line, getting more and more exasperated. Finally, he said, ‘Who do you think I am, God?’”
“I said, ‘No, Roger, you’re the commissioner of the National Football League. It’s your duty to protect the integrity of the game. You need to clean up this mess.”