Recent New York Times Article Throws Flag
October 22, 2014
For the past year readers of The Concussion Blog have learned about the nascent football concussion awareness movement going on in the Great White North, mostly pertaining to how the Canadian Football League, and the mainstream media, have handled-for lack of a better word-the issue.
Years behind the National Football League on the matter, the CFL nonetheless saw the first concussion-related lawsuit come its way last July, accompanied by media attention, much of which was a critical and sometimes downright hostile questioning and smack-down of former 2013 CFL’er Bruce’s groundbreaking statement of claim against the nine member teams of the CFL, neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Tator, Tator associate Leo Ezerins, and several other parties.
The lawsuit, among other things, alleges that the CFL member teams, and specifically some of Dr. Tator’s published research on TBI and CTE-partly funded by the CFL-mislead Mr. Bruce into believing he was not vulnerable to serious and long-term consequences from concussions he received while playing for the BC Lions. None of the allegations have been proven in court and Tator has filed a defense-covered here previously-that asks for the suit against him to be dismissed, with costs.
Yet other than one small article on former 80s era CFL player Phil Colwell, whose brief story and concussion-related problems appeared in his hometown KW Record paper in Ontario, last spring, your correspondent has been unable to place a single word in any other publication in Canada.
If it were not for Andrew Bucholtz of the Yahoo! Canada CFL 55 yard Line Blog sometimes linking to my stories here, few outside of the Concussion Blog’s sphere ever would have known about what did, and what continues to go on in Canada regarding football concussions and especially, their aftermath. Besides a small mention in the Vancouver Sun by journalist Mike Beamish when the Bruce story hit, no one in Canada besides Bucholtz saw the story as important enough to follow-up, and he has done fine work on his own regarding the concussion problem. As of now, I don’t believe Andrew is on many CFL General Manager or team PR weasel Christmas card lists. (TSN, the CFL’s television carrier did do a piece on their website about the lawsuit in September that mentioned The Concussion Blog, but it was subsequently removed from their archive shortly after my last story for this site last month, and for reasons so far presumed, but actually unknown at this time to this writer. And I have not seen another story in the Canadian media on the lawsuit since.)
And a week ago, after reading in the Winnipeg Free Press a flattering tome on Dr. Tator from last July that appeared just before he was named as a defendant in the Bruce lawsuit, your correspondent reached out to the paper inquiring whether they would entertain a slightly different take on Tator’s research and related concussion issues via an Op-Ed.
However, after being ping-ponged back and forth between editors at the paper, I was told by an Op-Ed editor that the concussion issue was not “topical,” despite the Jevon Belcher CTE story breaking that week and despite the fact that Winnipeg is home to a CFL franchise. But rather, I was informed, “Ebola” was of more import to their readers than what is essentially a real world and serious public health concern right now that surely can not be adequately explained by just one or two opinions, opinions which are even controversial within the medical and research community.
Likewise a kiss-off from my hometown CBC News website, whose editor, after some initial back and forth, just stopped responding to my e-mails and never published a piece I wrote on concussions in July even though it partly concerned the former Hamilton Tiger Cat, Phil Colwell.
TVO, the Canadian version of PBS, runs a show called The Agenda-and hell, the guy that hosts it has Hamilton roots!-that never met a contentious or important issue it did not glom on to and yet after receiving one return e-mail from a producer back in July commenting on my “unique” insights, I never heard another word.
Even the nice gal who runs TVO’s documentary film division, after initially offering to ask around if any of the filmmakers she had association with would be interested in the concussion story, none of my further e-mails were answered.
And, after being shut-out by nearly every institution purporting to be doing valid research into football concussions in Canada, I endured a recent 6 week runaround afforded me by the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont. which is supposed to be “partnering” with the Canadian version of the Sports Legacy Institute, but certainly did not do much for their reputation for cooperation with journalists trying to ask valid questions.
So after over a month of BS and excuses, I got nadda from them. I actually felt bad for the PR lady who drew the short stick to deal with me, and then she just stopped responding altogether.
To say that some of my dealings with the Canadian media and medical academia would be a joke, would only serve to denigrate comedy.
So obviously, the question is, why?
A veteran of the sports medicine community in Canada speaking on condition of anonymity said that many in the medical community were “afraid” of upsetting Dr. Tator, who carries much weight in medical academia and research grants around these parts.
The source said that many in the closed community are “buzzing” about Tator being named in the Bruce lawsuit but do not want to be featured in any story seeming to critique the doctor the TSN story described as “renown.”
However, the New York Times apparently does not have a problem featuring a different Canadian medical professional who, unlike Dr. Tator, does not believe CTE from football concussions is still open for (serious) debate. Continue reading