Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

In a time when I truly feel strongly that we should collaborate rather than look down noses’ at other peoples work and words within the concussion realm there seems to be none of that with a recent report from TSN, Canada.  Although I did get a chance to read, I really didn’t have the perspective that, say, a Canadian would.  Insert Terry Ott, who has penned some very interesting articles here, in regards to concussion coverage and information — particularly in Canadian Football — from north of the border.

I believe Mr. Ott presented a very fair summation of the information provided — mainly the Tator quote — via TSN.  It has been very interesting to see how different places handle the concussion issue, from North America to Europe to Australia.  For the most part it mainly has to do with the “biggest #&^!” in the room.  Which is not always the best way to accomplish the same overall goal: tackling the concussion issue — head on!  (see what I did there?)

Remember, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” -Japanese Proverb

Now for Terry

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TSN CANADA REPORT DEMONSTRATES DIFFERENT NORTH/SOUTH CONCUSSION PERSPECTIVES

HAMILTON

Dec. 6. 2014

TERRY OTT

In Canada, The Concussion Blog has come an awfully long way in the past 18 months.

Prior to its ongoing addressing of the concussion crisis in the Canadian Football League the site was definitely for seekers of specificity of brain injury and prevention, but certainly not pertaining to the CFL. Canuck readers were limited.

All of that changed last July when The Concussion Blog broke the story of the first concussion related lawsuit filed in Canada by former CFL player Arland Bruce. The Concussion Blog is now required reading for many interested parties of Canadian football and the northern medical community researching brain injury.

And now, Canadian-based The Sports Network (TSN) which previously had cast a rather jaded TV and radio eye on the Arland Bruce concussion lawsuit now seems to be seriously pursuing the story with a Dec. 3 piece by Continue reading

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Terry Ott: Concussion Coverage from Canadian Media is Woefully Lacking

The original purpose of The Concussion Blog was – and still is – to inform those that choose to look about concussions.  Part of this goal has been looking deeper into issues and “lip service” given to the brain injury we know as concussions.  In 2010, when the blog began, this was a novel idea and much of what was written here was “breaking news”.  Along with that, opinions that I shared on the issue were meant to be coming from someone with vast and dynamic experience in concussions.  The initial thought was this was to be a “clearinghouse” for concussion information – and it succeeded.  As years have passed and the media here in the United States has slowly caught on and passed along, mostly, the correct messages TCB has been slower.  However, that does not preclude us from posting information/opinion that we feel needs noticed.  Examples of this have been our white paper on NFL Concussions, the mouth gear controversy and general editorials on published research.

In the past year TCB has been lucky enough to have a journalist spend his own time investigating a part of the global concussion story, in Canada.  Terry Ott, as you may have noticed many of his articles here on the blog.  To be clear, this was all his work and I have become his one and only outlet for his sleuthing and writing.  As he can attest to I don’t always agree with his tact or his tone, but his information is important, especially because in Canada there seems to be a void in the information that would be important to most.  We here at TCB are glad to file his reports as long as he and others understand this is a conduit for discussion and discovery.  I have zero intention of “killing a sport” or “getting someone in trouble”, rather shedding light on some of the problems and issues we face when dealing with concussions.

All of that being said I present to you Ott’s latest (hopefully last here because someone in Canada needs to pick him up) on the concussion issue as it relates to the Great White North.

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WHEN IT COMES TO FOOTBALL CONCUSSIONS, CANADIAN MEDIA BADLY OFFSIDE

Recent New York Times Article Throws Flag

Hamilton, Ontario

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

Terry Ott: Canadian Concussion Law Suit Begins Its Slow Crawl To Resolution

In July this blog broke the news that Canada was facing its first law suit based on concussions in their professional football league.  Since that time there has been plenty of information, misinformation and general commentary about this issue in Canada.  The fact remains that this is a long way from getting settled, if you remember correctly the concussion issue in America took over a year to get “settled” and even now it is not completely final/finished.  Although there has been coverage in Canada (which has limited this blogs need to post/present about it) Terry Ott continues to beat the trail and get information to  present in his unique way.  With that backdrop I give you Mr. Ott’s latest filing…
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DEE-FENCE!
“Absence Of CTE” Doctor Files Defense in CFL Arland Bruce Concussion Lawsuit, But Claims to be “Outside The Knowledge Of” On Many Relevant Concussion Issues
HAMILTON
September 23, 2014

Just as it was a long way to Tipperary, it is surely a long way to go before the Arland Bruce III concussion lawsuit against the CFL, its member clubs, CFL Alumni director Leo Ezerins and Dr. Charles Tator and Krembil Neurosciences Center (KNC) ever comes close to a courtroom, or even any kind of resolution.

However, the legal equivalent of a punt has begun, and court documents obtained for this story provide for a very interesting if limited insight as to what can be expected in this first of its kind case in Canada.

On Sept. 10, the Vancouver BC firm of Harper Grey LLP, and attorney Nigel Trevethan filed a defense on behalf of Dr. Charles Tator,  denying or described as “outside the knowledge of the defendant” all but three parts of Bruce’s claim, only excepting that:  1. Tator is affiliated with Krimbil, 2. the KNC is based in Toronto,Ont. and 3. that Dr. Tator is the director of the Canadian Sports Concussion Project; these are the only facts that “are admitted” in Bruce’s 47 page statement of claim.

And while much of the above is pro-forma legal to-and-fro tiddlywinks, some of the “denied” and “outside the knowledge of the defendant” defenses as described in the Tator response to the civil claim are, ah, questionable to this reporter. (See attachments provided below.)

For instance, according to the filed document of defense Dr. Tator denies that he knew or should have known that:  Continue reading

Terry Ott: Former Canadian Football League Star Terry Metcalf To Sue League

Metcalf.Terry3
Terry Ott has filed this report to The Concussion Blog, again this is his journalism, we offer up the space for him to publish.  If you want to post here feel free to contact us.
 
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Will Claim Debilitating Injury From Multiple Concussions and “Neglectful” Treatment
 
 
HAMILTON,ONT.
August 14, 2014
 
Running back Terry Metcalf  was an NFL 3rd round draft pick in 1974 and played 5 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals before coming north and signing amidst much hoopla with the Toronto Argonauts in 1978.
 
From 1978 to 1980, Metcalf gained nearly 3300 all purpose yards with the Argos, including 1900 yards rushing and was the subject of much media attention, if not winning seasons.
 
Metcalf retired from football in 1981 and is now suffering from what he says are major health deficits as the result of multiple concussions suffered while he was playing for the Argonauts.

Mr. Metcalf, who now resides in Seattle said in an interview that the last concussion he received was in a 1980 Toronto home game and “was a pretty good shot.”

“I don’t remember finishing the game,” said Metcalf, adding that he categorized his concussion treatment at the time as “neglectful, nothing, really.”

Now Metcalf, who teaches kindergarten, complains of chronic ringing in his ears, memory issues, and says he has a “50% loss of feeling in (his) right hand.” Mr. Metcalf said his symptoms had been noted when he had been examined by doctors in 2011 for the NFLPA class action suit against the NFL for concussion related injury.

Mr. Metcalf has retained a Canadian lawyer and is intending through counsel to file suit against the CFL for concussion injury.

Metcalf, 63, also complains about his mood saying that he had been “quite depressed in his life” and that he was lately “grumpier, and you can ask my wife about that.”

Perhaps just as troubling is the fact that of the three CFL players who have come forward in the last year complaining about multiple concussion injury-Phil Colwell, Eric Allen and now Terry Metcalf-all three played for the same Toronto team between 1972 and 1980 and all three former players claim deficient or even non-existent concussion medical care.

And in previous interviews, all three former Argo players in question who claim to have suffered concussions while playing for Toronto had, according to a source, been treated by the same group of medical and training personnel at the time of injury, and afterwards.

Those familiar with a 2013 story on the Concussion Blog on former Argo Phil Colwell who was knocked unconscious in a 1981 game, will recall that he claimed the only medical advice given to him at the time was to not go to sleep the night of the injury, and was in fact allowed to drive himself (70 miles) home after the game.

Colwell, who is also suing the CFL, said that he returned to play one week after his 1981 KO hit and further said that “at the time, if I had gone on the injury list for a concussion, I would have been cut.”

And Colwell, who nearly became homeless earlier this year pulls no punches when it comes to his current situation: “The CFL stole my brain, ” he said, “maybe I’ll get it back (but) I want memories, not money.”


Also in a previous Concussion Blog story, former Argonaut Eric “The Flea” Allen described his treatment after concussion by the Argo medical and training staff in question as “I don’t think (they) looked at me.”

Mr. Allen, 65, who is also in the process of suing the CFL is now no longer able to walk and is for the most part bedridden with severe vertigo.


And while there would seem to be a common thread with the three former Argo players claiming to have had similar experiences with the Argo staff after suffering concussion injury, a source speaking on condition of anonymity said that there are many more former players from different CFL teams who had the same basic after concussion injury treatment and many of them would be coming forward in the future.

Continue reading

Terry Ott — E”TF”A: Now 1 of 7 and Counting

Eric "the Flea" Allen Toronto Argonaults 1972. Photo Ted GrantThe information being brought to The Concussion Blog has been astounding, newsworthy, controversial (to some) and welcome.  We are not paying anyone for their guest posts, rather providing a platform for the information.  The inbox is always open for such things – with me as executive editor.  Just because something is posted here does not mean that I or we generally agree or endorse unless otherwise stated.  I have reached out to many people on the other side of this current CFL issue to open my pages to them and have yet to get a post from them.  Honestly, I don’t know that much about the CFL and its players – Doug Flutie being the only one I remember that well.  I truly appreciate the feedback on this continuing saga, but remember this is one journalist, Terry Ott’s, work.  It is here because he cannot find anyone to publish his information in Canada.  I feel this information is important to share.  What follows is Terry’s most recent filing.

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1970s ERA CFL STAR ERIC “The Flea” ALLEN WILL REPORTEDLY SUE CFL FOR ALLEGED MANY HEALTH PROBLEMS AS A RESULT OF PLAY

Former Toronto Argonaut Player Dealing With “Serious” And Debilitating Concussion Related Issues

Hamilton, Ontario — July 30, 2104

Eric “The Flea” Allen starred with the Toronto Argonauts between 1973-1975, and as noted previously here in Sneer and Loafing, is suffering the effects of what is alleged to be serious brain damage caused by multiple concussions while he was playing for the Toronto team, which at the time, was the highest profile and richest franchise in the league.

Allen, 65, is currently being cared for by his elderly mother in the family home in Rock Hill, South Carolina, along with some help from family and home care workers.

In an interview, Allen’s mother Rebecca Young, 84, said that Eric’s condition had declined precipitously in the last 6 weeks to the point that her son “can hardly walk now,” even with the aid of a walker, and spends most of the day in bed suffering from vertigo and has recently developed bouts of incontinence as well as suffering from worsening memory and mood issues.

Mrs. Young said that she had recently been visited by Canadian lawyer Robyn Wishart who Mrs. Young said will be representing Mr. Allen in a legal action against the Canadian Football League, allegedly for concussion injuries Allen says he suffered while playing in the league for the Toronto Argos for the three seasons in question.

“She said she was going to do her best to get (us) some help,” said Mrs.Young, of lawyer Wishart. “I hope it’s soon…I’m so tired,” added Mrs. Young, who as the principal caregiver for her debilitated son has a multiple hour drive to take Mr. Allen for treatment at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Ms. Wishart was traveling and did not return telephone calls for comment about Allen’s condition.

Two weeks ago, Arland Bruce, also represented by attorney Wishart, was the first 21st century former CFL player to file suit against the CFL member teams and others for concussion injury. Mr. Allen now marks the first from another era to follow a similar path although legal sources expect any lawsuit alleging head injury prior to any officially established CFL concussion protocols to be constructed quite differently than the Bruce pleadings, possibly along the lines of the now settled NFLPA 1 billion dollar suit against the NFL.

Furthermore, according to a source speaking on condition of anonymity, there are now at least a total of 7 former CFL players, some who played over 50 years ago, currently, or intending to, bring suit against the league for concussion injury.

The Arland Bruce III lawsuit story was national news in Canada for several days after it first broke on this Blog July 16, albeit with some of  the coverage taking on a near inquisition tone regarding Mr. Bruce’s motivations and alleged recent actions.

And unfortunately, your correspondent has been hearing about rumblings/grumblings supposedly originating from within The Great White North sports media community that somehow I have embellished, made up, or even peddled “lies” in my episodic and breaking reporting of the emerging concussion crisis in the CFL during the last 9 months.

In case you still don’t get it boys: this is not about me, but rather the wounded former players and common human decency. The players are making nothing up. Mull that scenario over for a while my suspicious, duplicitous friends.

This latest report on Mr. Allen’s troubles and intentions will hopefully give those uninformed and wrong side of history naysayers some pause before they raise questions about Mr. Allen and his family’s motivations and needs, as well as way, way down the line, mine.

Terry Ott: Personal Observations in the Wake of Suit

Terry Ott files a follow-up regarding the law suit in Canada and Arland Bruce.  This is his commentary on the coverage of the issue; all information, illustrations, pictures and links are his.

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DOES CANADA’S TSN, THE HOST CFL BROADCASTER, APPEAR TO BE “CIRCLING THE WAGONS” OVER ARLAND BRUCE III CONCUSSION LAWSUIT AND SUBSEQUENT NATIONAL HOOPLA AND HOOTIN’ AND HOLLERING, OR IS IT JUST A CASE OF, AND NOW, FOR SOMETHING (REALLY) COMPLETELY DIFFERENT?

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.” — Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle

The irony of the American-based Concussion Blog breaking one of the biggest stories about the Canadian Football League in recent memory when it exclusively revealed the first concussion lawsuit in CFL history, is certainly very rich.

Prior to D-Day, July 16, 2014, much of the Canadian sports media didn’t know too much about concussions, and, well, seemingly, they didn’t wanna know too much. Or, as they also mused in the movie Casino, “ah,why take a chance?”

And of course there is that lovely old Buddhist proverb of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” Maybe that’s what most of the big time scribblers and jolly jock-sniffers were up to up here prior to the Bruce legal revelation but since most would not even talk to me, how would I really know?

However, after Andrew Bucholtz of the Yahoo! Canada 55 Yard Line CFL Blog gave the story of the Bruce lawsuit nation-wide coverage mere hours after it first appeared here, the story became a talking point throughout Canada for days as well as shaking the previously comfortably cocooned CFL , who may have been alerted to the Concussion Blog post by a trusty and observant friendly just shortly after it went live from Chicago at 12:32 EDT, on July 16.  Continue reading

SNEER and LOAFING in the CFL: A Sad Trip to Apathy, Amnesia and Animus

Eric “The Flea” Allen

This post is by guest journalist, Terry Ott.  You may remember some of his work posted here previously in the seven-part series looking into concussions and possible long-term issues (you can click on links within the post to read all parts).  With the Canadian Football League avoiding a work stoppage by ratifying a new collective bargaining agreement and play about to begin Ott brings us a follow-up story.

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The Canadian Football League season is set to kick-off on June 26 culminating with the 102st Grey Cup in Vancouver in November. With a new team-the rather unusually named Ottawa RedBlackstwo new stadiums, a recently ratified 5 year collective bargaining agreement between the players and the board of governors that still leaves the owners with a major financial upper hand, and the ever-increasing fan interest in Canada and even south of the border, it would appear the CFL has landed in a cozy albeit modest pro sports sweet spot.

However, there is that not so little matter concerning the past, and especially the future…


Weird Scenes Inside The 110 Yard Gridiron

After my 7 part series on concussions in the CFL appeared at the end of last year, both Concussion Blog founder
Dustin Fink and I both had the same question:Why has the CFL (apparently) not been sued for concussion-related damages? And just where are all the players who played and suffered serious concussions that affected their quality of life after football? How could the CFL possibly be that much different from the NFL?

The CFL has been knocking and sometimes scrambling heads for well over 100 years and yet not a single class action lawsuit for damages due to concussion has yet been filed. It is possible that at some point in the past, singular concussion related lawsuits have been undertaken and settled out of court and bound by confidentiality agreement so they were never reported on but other than that possibility, it would almost appear that the CFL somehow exists in some bizarre twilight zone of brain injury legal non-culpability and/or amnesty. 

Continue reading

TCB Commenter Highlighted in Canadian Press

If you visit here enough and take the time to look at the comments at the end of the posts you might notice a person named “Phil”.  He especially took time to comment on the work of Terry Ott and his seven-part series about CTE in the CFL.  Thanks to Terry and this blog we are all able to get the genuine views of a former player in the CFL, Phil Colwell, via The Record from Canada and Terry Ott;

Colwell’s brief CFL career ended in 1981 after a violent on-field collision in a game at Winnipeg Stadium. He was playing for the Toronto Argonauts on that crisp and sunny day in October.

Covering a kickoff, Colwell, a solid six-two, 195-pounder with sprinter speed, was blindsided through the ear hole of his helmet by a Winnipeg player and was knocked out cold. He lay motionless on the field while a trainer ran to his assistance. No penalty was called on the play.

This is the type of story that Ott has sent out to tell from the beginning, placing faces and human behind the issue that has become one of the preeminent problems with football.  Yes, this is not isolated to football but we would be remiss if we didn’t expose and tell the stories of the most oft afflicted in the “head games” we now find ourselves knee-deep in;

Colwell, who graduated from Laurier with a psychology degree, found work with a Scottish government agency but continued to suffer bouts of depression and mood swings. He says accompanying anger issues and self-medicating led to moderate bouts of short-term or primary memory loss. Colwell says he frequently “loses the right words.”

The Scottish doctors he consulted were not familiar with professional football Continue reading

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

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 and PART 3 HERE and PART 4 HERE and PART 5 HERE and PART 6 HERE.

It has been my pleasure to post the stylings of Mr. Ott over the past few weeks.  The guy has worked hard on this basically “paying it forward” so perhaps one person will run with the information.  I admire his spirit and “sticktoitivness”, thank you, Terry!

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AND IN THE END…THE CULTURE MUST CHANGE AND/OR THE FALL OF THE FOOTBALL EMPIRE

“In this sort of feminized atmosphere we exist today guys who are masculine and muscular…kind of old-fashioned guys run some risks.” -Brit Hume, Jan. 13, 2014

You know, I don’t really care much for the brand of “news” that FOX espouses and yet this is the second, and last time I will quote from it.

Because what Brit Hume recently said deserves to be discussed. Even though his comments may be a mile wide and only an inch deep and were not referring to the “manly” sport of football, they may in fact strike to the heart of the civil war now going on in pigskin circles regarding concussions and brain injury.

On one side of the debate are what the League of Denial authors rightly called the deniers, and the other side would seem to be the whistle-blowers. The deniers see the whistle-blowers as silly sissy Marry la-la’s trying to wreck football and the whistle-blowers see the deniers as Neanderthal numbskulls, old-fashioned guys well past their sell date.

Perhaps these are the risks that can befall the old guard, the deniers. That of being accused of being out of touch, thick, ignorant of the facts, or worse.

But does that make the whistle-blowers, those alleged soft, girly man, nanny-state purveyors “feminized”?

Well, if it means caring about football and employing common sense in a brutal arena, then sign me up for NOW, now, man.

Because pro football as we now know it is in danger-yes, real danger.

Danger of being law-suited and legislated out of acceptable existence.

And, as I have previously pointed out, shutting up about it is just plain dumb and ensures football will be KIA.

The lawyers smell money – that’s real money – and the government will most assuredly act, and maybe even in a Draconian fashion, if pro football does not get its brain injury prevention and after care act together very soon.

The NFL and their broadcast partners are joined at the hip. For the most part, this ain’t good because neither hand wants Continue reading

Terry Ott: 3rd Down, CTE to go – Part 6 – UPDATED

CBC 5th EstateThis 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 and PART 3 HERE and PART 4 HERE and PART 5 HERE.

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UPDATE 21:19 1/22/14 – rectified link to CBC The Fifth Estate “Head Games” (see below)

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HELLO, IS THERE ANYBODY IN/OUT THEREJUST NOD IF YOU CAN HEAR ME, IS THERE ANYONE AT HOME?

“Now I remember why I gave up speaking to journalists. They are a species of foul vermin. I wouldn’t hire people like that to guard my sewer. Journalists are morons. They’re idiots. They’re ignorant and stupid.” – The late, great, irascible Lou Reed.

Well, up here in the Great White North, the question of (seriously) addressing the serious problem of concussions in the Canadian Football League would appear to be a deaf, dumb and blind one, boy.

Or, maybe as popular as baked beans on a bus trip.

For whichever way you want to turn this thing loose, up here, it’s locked up, tight.

As I’ve written before in this series, although there has been some pretty good reporting, especially by the CBC where on their website they still carry many reports and videos about concussions, about the only report on concussions and the CFL’s role that I can find is a 2008 CBC Fifth Estate report entitled, “Head Games.”

Below is the web promo, description and link but that link does not work. (The Concussion Blog originally linked to this report several years ago when the link did work.)

CBC The Fifth Estate – “Head Games” broadcast in 2008:

“They have been called the greatest football team in the history of the CFL — the Edmonton Eskimos of the 1970s and ’80s that won five consecutive Grey Cups. But, for some of the star players on that team, the years of triumph ended ingloriously in early deaths, from heart attack, suicide and misadventure. The tragedy of those early deaths was often compounded by alcohol or drug addictions, probably caused by another, less visible, killer. Recent research by neuroscientists now shows the link between on-the-field concussions and brain damage; a permanent injury that can lead to depression, suicide and severe aberrant behaviour. The damage is so profound, the researchers say, that post-mortem examinations of the brain tissue of five former professional football players can be compared only to the tissue found in the brain tissue of advanced Alzheimer’s cases.” CBC The Fifth Estate – Head Games

This 2008 report was actually ahead of its time, and again, the only one that I know of that cornered the CFL and asked some tough, prescient questions. The former commissioner had that old deer/headlamps face a few times and newspapers at the time took a toot but then everyone went back to a snore. Comfortably numb.

But now, there is a proviso on the Fifth Estate website advising thatprior programs from 2003 were inadvertently re-posted in 2013 and therefore, contact customer service, yada, yada, yada, and blah-blah.

Yet interestingly – I said interestingly – the only Fifth Estate link that I could not get to work was…TA DAH: Head Games.

I am alleging nothing-although I may later sort of spatially speculate-but there are some conspiracy theorists out there who are very suspicious.

One of them is Phil Colwell, the former CFL running back who Continue reading

Terry Ott: 3rd Down, CTE to go – Part 5

MIPSThis 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 and PART 3 HERE and PART 4 HERE.

IS “MIPS” A FOUR LETTER WORD AND (Every)THING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SNAKE-OIL*

*But were unaware to ask

“The cold truth is that football players are in jeopardy.”  — Bill O’Reilly, he of the No Spin (End) Zone, Jan. 8. 2014


The Concussion Blog supremo Dustin Fink once mused to me that football, in its infancy a hundred years ago or there about, was meant to be played by (slower) men about five foot nine and weighing an average 150 pounds or so and at a time when a 200LB plus player was basically a monster, a freak.

You can appreciate the Dustin statement inference by referencing high school physics in that net (G) force equals mass times acceleration and also appreciate that now, with players routinely 50-150 pounds heavier then when the first Roosevelt was in the White House, and many now with world-class speed, the G forces generated on impact by today’s pro and college football players are exponentially greater than in Knute Rockne’s days and the resulting collisions on the field can be life threatening in the short, and long-term.

Life in big-time football today is both Darwinian-only the strong survive, and if lucky thrive, and inherently  Hobbesian-nasty, brutish and short.

But since literally millions of boys and young men seek football playing dreams, what to do?

Well, since just about all aspects of football equipment has undergone a radical revolution-footwear, pads, uniforms, gloves and eye protection-how about an update on the most important piece of football gear-the helmet.

A little history lesson: President and Rough Rider Teddy R was a big football fan, and when 9 players died in 1913 as a result mostly of skull fracture injuries, he, along with Knute Rockne advocated for a shift from three yards Continue reading

Terry Ott: 3rd Down, Absence of CTE to go – Part 4

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 and PART 3 HERE.

THE CURIOUSLY TITLED AND ENIGMATIC BRAIN STUDY, AND THE SEEMINGLY RHETORICAL QUESTION OF ’14

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” –Albert Einstein, who knew a thing or two about brains.

Dr. Tator: Not absent

Dr. Ann McKee, professor of neurology and pathology and co-director of the Center For The Study Of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University once mused in a television interview that she wondered if most if not all professional football players had some degree of CTE.

After all, the brains of former football players examined by the Center so far has found the existence of CTE was near one hundred percent.

Whether one agrees with the now famous Dr. McKee in totality regarding the prevalence of CTE in former players, her and her team are world-class doctors and researchers who have brought the serious issue of football related brain trauma into the collective consciousness of tens of millions of observers.

Most believe that the BU work on CTE was the main catalyst for the National Football League to eventually in 2009 admit that there was a cause and effect between football play and CTE and was also the key preponderance of the evidence that made for a 765 million dollar settlement between the league and former players who claimed neurological damage from playing football.

Here in the Great White North, Dr. Charles Tator, of the University of Toronto, has been referred to as the grandfather of brain research and sort of the Canuck version of BU-like CTE research.

Dr. Tator, a neurosurgeon, originally specialized in spinal cord injuries, but was leader of a study of the brains of 6 former Canadian Football League players that was published in May, 2013.

Despite the fact that Dr. Tator’s study found a fifty percent incidence of CTE among the subjects, the study was entitled “Absence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in retired football players with multiple concussions and neurological symptomatically”

The detailed study places much weight on the small number of brains Continue reading

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.

LEAGUE OF NON-DENIAL, DENIAL HEARS, SEES NO EVIL or KNOCKED OUT, LOADED

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 Continue reading

Terry Ott: 3rd Down, Absence of CTE to go – Part 2

This “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.

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THE LINEBACKER’S HEAD GAMES

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states that:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”[6]

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Former star CFL player Leo Ezerins was a ferocious linebacker through the 80s and won a Grey Cup while playing for the Hamilton Tiger Cats in 1986.

In that game, in which Hamilton was in some sports books a 22 point dog to the vaunted Edmonton Eskimos, Ezerins and company absolutely stomped and annihilated  the Eskimos, a seek and  destroy mission that in the first half forced half a dozen sacks, several forced fumbles and recoveries and a total offense by Edmonton of basically, nadda.

Here, are some highlights:

Ezerins was perhaps the 80s CFL’s answer to former Pittsburgh Steeler wild-man and Hall of Famer Jack Lambert, taking no prisoners and showing no quarter on the gridiron.

And right now, Leo is not too happy with me. I kinda feel bad about that, and here’s how it happened.

You see, Ezerins is currently the executive director of the CFL Alumni Association which boasts around 1000 participants.

The Alumni Association attempts to bring former players together in friendship, events and sometimes even modest philanthropy. Some members have been directly involved in examinations of former player
health and safety issues as well, including concussion research. Obviously, the CFL Alumni does some good work.

And so last October, I sought Ezerins out via e-mail, inquiring as to Continue reading

Guest Series by, Terry Ott – Part 1: 3rd Down, “Absence of CTE” to go.

This “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.

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THIRD DOWN, “ABSENCE OF CTE” TO GO

The Canadian Football League claims to be the oldest professional football circuit in existence, dating back to the late 1800s.

Last year, the 100th Grey Cup league championship was played in Toronto before 50,000 fans and millions more on TV.

The league, which used to advertise that their “balls were bigger,” has recently signed a new, lucrative-for Canada-television deal, and a 18 game regular season is currently seen in the United States on three cable sports networks

In 2014, the CFL returns to one of their previous core markets in the nation’s capital, and there is talk and hope of further expansion to eventually reach at least 10 teams, bad, nation-wide, is a real possibility.

Three new stadiums have recently been built and another is on the way.

The level of play has never been better and the brand and ownership-albeit with one individual owning two teams-unlike some prior years, is strong.

The future for the CFL would seem to be bright, but…

KNOCKED OUT

Former CFL player Phil Colwell doesn’t watch the Canadian Football League.

He doesn’t live in Canada anymore, and has pretty much lost touch with all of the players he knew and played with between 1980 and 1983.

When he left the game early due to a series of injuries and questionable coaching decisions, he intended to leave it completely behind. But while he may have left the game, the game as the old saying goes, has never left him.

“Philthy” Colwell, the strapping, bearded, homegrown and swift running back then in his mid 20s, was knocked out in a game in 1981 while playing for the Toronto Argonauts, suffering a devastating concussion that to this day he says he has very little recollection of and that was most likely the participator of his premature departure from football.

Colwell had played high school football, starred for three years for his Canadian college team, and played a form of semi-pro “junior” football and even drew some interest from the New England Patriots after playing in the short lived Can Am Bowl series, before making it to the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger Cats in 1980 and appearing in the Grey Cup as a rookie.

He later shared a field with former Houston Oilers star Billy “White Shoes” Johnston and former LA Ram quarterback Vince Feragamo when they briefly came north with the Montreal Alouettes. Colwell’s quarterback when he was in Toronto was former University of Tennessee super star Conredge Holloway.

Notwithstanding the galaxy of football talent he kept company with, Colwell says that at every level of football he participated in, he knows took many concussive hits in what then was considered to be “just part of the game.”

You got “dinged,” you got “your bell rung,” and then you went right back to same game including a particularly nasty incident while playing junior football in Sarnia, Ontario, when he Continue reading

Terry Ott: CFL Follies

If you recall a few weeks ago I posted a request for some help for a journalist, Terry Ott of Canada.  It was simple, if anyone who reads this is a former Canadian Football (CFL) player or knows a former CFL’er, could they contact Mr. Ott for a story he is doing on concussions in that subset of professional football.  The good news was that people responded, albeit a small number, it was more than he was able to find doing his journalistic thing.  It made me happy that this blog could help out someone looking for information, because that is why it occupies a space.  But…………..

In the post below, that Mr. Ott wrote, you will see that by using this blog it may have stonewalled any help from the CFL, its Players’ Association or the Alumni Association.  Mr. Ott titled this post “CFL Follies” and I cannot think of a better title for what you are about to read.

Without further ado, Mr. Ott;

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I’d imagine that most reading this Blog will have heard of League of Denial.

But, I doubt you have heard of League of Non Denial, Denial.

Because after three months of dodge-ball dealing with the CFL about the concussion issue past, present and future, I was, after some initial boiler-plate information given in October, told today that my follow-up questions were “loaded” and would not be addressed by the CFL. (The questions are at the bottom of this post, and you can make up your own mind if they were “loaded,” or not.)

In addition, the CFLPA will no longer respond to my Continue reading

Canadian Journalist Seeks CFL Alums (UPDATE)

UPDATE (11/28/13): It a appears this post and Tweet have provided Mr. Ott some good contacts!  Thank you.  However… Those willing to speak are Canadian CFL’ers, interestingly enough those that are American former CFL players have not reached out or are unwilling to talk.  This strikes me as odd but not so odd.  I feel that here in the US we still view this as taboo, to talk about concussions/head injuries.  If you would please be so kind as to find some American former CFL’ers Mr. Ott and myself would be very thankful!

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In the wake of ‘League of Denial’ by the Brothers Fainaru, many others are trying to dig deeper into the convoluted mess that we seem to find ourselves.  Of course, this is in regards to professional football.  Interestingly enough I have been contacted to seek such alums to speak with Terry Ott; mainly because there is still a veil of secrecy and some general stonewalling from those that played.  Terry passes along this note;

I am a Canadian journalist 6 months into an investigation on football concussions and brain injury and their aftermath.

My focus is on former players from the Canadian Football League (CFL).

Any former CFL player who is dealing with concussion issues is welcome to contact me at tjo55@yahoo.com

All replies in confidence unless specified by the responding individual.

I will also offer to be a conduit for those that want to speak but feel that confidence is of the utmost importance.