Terry Ott: 3rd Down, Absence of CTE to go – Part 3

This continuing “Guest Series” is being authored by Terry Ott and will delve into the Canadian Football League and the issues revolving around it and brain injury.  His process began nearly a year ago, but Mr. Ott picked up some steam with the release of“League of Denial”.  He has since found himself running into dead-ends and basically being ostracized for taking a journalistic angle on this as it pertains to the CFL.  We are thankful that we can provide a space for his writings and only hope that someone who is reading this can further his cause. You can read PART 1 HERE and PART 2 HERE.


QUESTION: Could the Canadian Football League receive and survive a class action law suit brought on behalf of former players suffering from football concussions and related brain injury?

ANSWER: Later.

This year, when the Canadian Football League’s director of communications, Jamie Dykstra, declined to answer what he termed my “loaded” questions about concussions and how the CFL was going to address them, I told Jamie it was unfortunate and that I would have to note the league’s silence in my story. “I know,” he said.

So, I am, noting it, that is. Because, to reference some other talking heads, this ain’t no disco; this ain’t no foolin’ around.

To reiterate, my questions, posted on the Concussion Blog earlier and condensed here concerned among other things, whether baseline testing info from the teams was shared with the league, whether the CFL was looking at any new helmet technology such as MIPS and would the CFL, like the NFL in 2009 confirm that in some cases, a causal relationship between football concussions and brain injury was a possibility.

Even after I appealed to Dykstra that hitting the mute button on such an important issue seemed, well, just wrong, and that my questions were not exactly League of Denial serious as a statement of claim or heart attack, he replied that “we (the CFL) are well aware of what is going on.”

I certainly hope so, yet being “aware,” and actually having a prescient policy would appear to be two different things.

Before Dykstra stopped talking, he had earlier forwarded me some pretty white-bread CFL concussions protocols and when I picked at its crust, was told the league’s policy was “organic.”

Far out. Nice, sexy, trendy new-age word Jamie, but what does it actually mean in the real, sometimes savage head knockin’ world of Canuck pro football?

Since the CFL won’t tell me, let me introduce to you a number of quite plausible if not certain “organic” scenarios for what in some ways seems a Darwinian policy.

Unlike the NFL, the CFL right now appears to not be on the radar of most sports journalists and media outlets when it comes to concussions and their impact on players, past, present and future. (Score one for the Concussion Blog.)

Oh sure, some mostly good but narrowly informational pieces and reports have been done in the last few years on concussions, but few, if any, have actually held the CFL’s feet to the fire on the issue. Maybe they intended  to, and Jamie and crew thought their questions “loaded” as well and so nothing ever came of it, but I really don’t know for sure.

And maybe I’m out on a limb on this one, with a please don’t shoot the sincere questioner to my colleagues who may profess paranoia on my part, but could there be a kind of “gentleman’s agreement”-sorry, gentleperson’s– between some in the Canadian media and the CFL to basically not know too much, and not want to know too much on the concussion conundrum?

Or, even worse, does nobody out there even care?  Again, just sayin’, and mostly musing. Nobody told me, yet, strange days, indeed. Most peculiar, etc.

But, I can tell you that all of the media outlets I approached-save for a Yahoo Canada sports CFL Blog-with this story basically told me to get lost, or themselves got lost and did not get back to me. And now, it appears even the CFL Blogger who I have passed on tips to for about two years, has gone MIA, or at least away from his keyboard. Hopefully, he’ll come back to it.

Meanwhile, how does it follow that the amateur arm of pigskin play in Canada, Football Canada, actually provides statements from two representatives while the professional league complains of “loaded” questions and will speak no evil, or whatever.

After all, the questions sent Football Canada’s way were in their own way just as “loaded” as the ones to the CFL, yet I pretty promptly got responses, including this, from operations official Shannon Donovan regarding helmet technology, “…we do not endorse, recommend or require a brand of helmet.  All products are welcome to present to our members everyone is given equal opportunity but at this time I don’t see Football Canada partnering with anyone without extensive review and data to back up any system presented.”

Fair enough. And again, a question the CFL refused to answer.

And regarding my question of Football Canada’s partnership with the CFL, Shannon said, “Yes, it is mostly funding provided from CFL to go towards grassroots programing across the country (and) we in turn promote the league by trying to develop the top players, coaches and officials to reach that level of play.”

In addition, I got this, in bold, “Mission Statement: It should be emphasized that player safety is Football Canada’s prime concern and should not be compromised. All other issues become secondary.

Obviously, no Lord of the Flies, beware, scared, the CTE Beast might bite ass narratives for Football Canada.

Finally, in response to a question about concussions in the news, Football Canada’s technical director Aron Geisler said this:

“I am aware of both the book and the documentary League of Denial as well as the research done on CTE…”

Wait! What did that man say? Let’s hear that again from Football Canada’s Geisler on concussions:“I am aware of both the book and the documentary League of Denial as well as the research done on CTE. I think it was a well made documentary that sheds light on an issue that should be discussed and debated every chance we get.”

Hear that CFL? Imagine that, CFL? Yet I get the feeling the CFL may consider League of Denial blasphemous.

So, from what I can gather-remember the CFL won’t talk to me-Football Canada, whose technical director Geisler gave two workshops at the recent International Concussion Conference held in Niagara Falls, Ont. would appear to be well ahead of the CFL on the issue, especially considering one of my “loaded” questions involved whether the CFL had even sent a representative to the Niagara Falls conference, or whether they were even aware of it.

Stop me if I’m wrong, but what’s wrong with the above picture? Football Canada 1+, CFL, nil.

And as to the question I posed at the top about the possibility of a class action lawsuit on behalf of former CFL players suffering from alleged football acquired brain injury?

Well, and surprising to me, a former CFL player who during his playing days had some involvement with the CFLPA, and said that during his time, the CFL’s insurance polices had paid out some rather large health care claims, told me that there most likely will be a class action in the future but that he believed/speculated  it would originate from the United States where unlike former Canadian CFL players, many have no, or very limited health insurance benefits.

Maybe it will come from the US, but presently, I am aware of only a Canadian legalist slightly sniffing around the edges and depending on the size of such a possible action regardless of the origin of it, the CFL, minus billions of buckets of bucks like the NFL, could possibly find their asset well-drained, considerably.

Finally, perhaps I really am not owed any answers from the CFL about concussions, past, present and future-after all, I’m just a scribbler, a fan, and yeah, it is sort of a free enterprise country so yap-shutting by robotized and finely tuned PR weasels to journalists who come with pesky, “loaded” questions is no crime.

But, the “heroes” of the game are damn sure entitled to something (more), and as the lyric of the song in this clip state, some are “in search of answers, to questions of why.”


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