Irv Muchnick: Two Articles

Irvin Muchnick is a writer and investigative journalist writing focusing mainly on the WWE.  Muchnick has been heavily involved in the concussion issue in the WWE and its crossover as well.

Irv has written two articles in succession that take a look at the concussion issue and the NFL.  In the first Muchnick examined the recent (March 2010) change in  title of the NFL “head and neck committee”;

In March 2010 the NFL’s concussion policy panel, called the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, got a new name and new co-chairs. Now known as the Head, Neck and Spine Medical Committee, it is jointly chaired by Dr. H. Hunt Batjer, of Northwestern Memorial Hospital outside Chicago, and Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Batjer and Ellenbogen replaced the disgraced Dr. Ira Casson and Dr. David Viano, who in turn had replaced the disgraced Dr. Elliot Pellman.

Though Batjer and Ellenbogen promised to sweep out the Augean stable of league head injury custodians, they have done nothing of the sort. For example, Dr. Joseph Maroon, whose corrupt involvement in this sordid history has been extensively documented by me, remains on the committee.

And in July the two new co-chairs reversed a commitment not to release an ambiguously worded NFL helmet safety study with limited or no value for the broader universe of amateur helmet consumers. In the good coverage of this narrow issue by The New York Times’ Alan Schwarz, Ellenbogen explained that he decided the study was OK “as long as statements were phrased very carefully.” Congressman Weiner blasted this “disturbing step backwards.”

More emphasis has been put on head trauma in the NFL, but I believe that Irv is merely exposing the slow process of “reform change” when it comes to brass tacks.  Although changing a stigma will not happen overnight, it can happen much quicker if there was more “independent” people in charge of the process.  It is difficult in any form of science or research to produce change if those paying for the research are unhappy with the results (see Global Climate Change-Warming-Cooling End of Days research).  Regardless, this issue is not being glossed over by Muchnick.

In the second article, Irv takes a bit more of a “sensational” stance, equating the concussion crisis in the NFL to the AIDS saga playing out world-wide;

Since at the very latest 1994, the NFL has been served ample forensic notice that the sport it markets was growing out of human and medical control. These are not ACL’s and torn shoulder capsules we’re talking about, people; they are the brains of frighteningly large numbers of American males who have participated, in organized fashion and from very early ages, in an activity that is a staple of adult approval and social status.

And what did the league, its fawning media, its co-profiting sponsors, and its frat-pack fans do about it? As little as they could get away with.

As this multi-generational saga takes sharper shape with the rush of new discovered cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and with the sentimentally airbrushed back story of NFL player “advocate” Dave Duerson’s suicide, I find “conspiracy” to be a very tepid term, indeed, for the pervasive self-delusion that has gripped all of us for years, for decades. The title of one of historian Barbara Tuchman’s books says it better: The March of Human Folly. The title of Randy Shilts’ chronicle of the AIDS epidemic says it better still: And the Band Played On.

Later in the article, posted on Beyond Chron, Muchnick uses the Chris Henry brain analysis and how some (including me) have concerns with the blanket statement that CTE causes, as Dr. Ellenbogen frames it, “challenging personalities”.  It can be a very easy leap to make such observations but, as with most co-morbidity issues, what needs to be known is what came first, the chicken or the egg.  Regardless of where you stand these are “concerns” that Muchnick is right for bringing up.

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