Earlier this month we shared thoughts from a brain injury attorney at our firm regarding the continuing concerns about the conduct of the National Football League and traumatic brain injury. While an apparent settlement was reached between some players and the NFL last month, that possible agreement in no way ends the matter. There are still many uncompensated athletes and unanswered questions from the league.
In fact, just this week an ESPN “Outside the Lines” story provided an in-depth look at a new book which argues that “the NFL used its power to deny a link between playing football and brain damage.”
The text was written by two investigative reporters who work for ESPN and is entitled “League in Denial: The NFL, Concussions and Battle for Truth.’ One of the authors is a former Pulitzer Prize winner. The allegations in the book are significant, with suggestions that the league worked to discredit scientists, was disingenuous when picking and choosing data to cite, and engaged in public awareness campaigns to minimize understanding of the brain injury risk with the sport. Both the current and former commissioner’s of the NFL are called out for their conduct.
Big Business, Big Money
The book makes the helpful comparison to the conduct of other big businesses which prioritize profits over safety. The most well-known example is that of tobacco companies which spent decades covering up and whitewashing the data which revealed the harmful effects of cigarettes. The main purpose was clear–keep business booming and make money. The same profit-motive may have lead to the NFL’s actions.
That is not to say the comparison is identical. As one of the book’s author’s notes, “”There are many differences. But one is that football’s health crisis featured not millions of anonymous victims but very public figures whose grotesque demises seemed almost impossible to reconcile with their personas.”
The book reveals many surprising information which should raise many eyebrows. For example, former NFL Commissioner, Paul Tagliabue created a committee to examine the brain injury concern. The Committee issued a report which essentially said that concussion were only minor brain injuries that did not lead to long-term brain damage. We now know that argument to fly in the face of the best science. Even then, two of the original committee members completely disavowed the committee’s findings, understanding the conclusions to be wrong.
Also, at least a decades before public acknowledgement of the link between the injury and the game, top scientists were warning officials about higher rates of dementia, memory loss, and depression in former NFL players. The book details many other instances in which the league explicitly ignored the work of researchers or even outright discredited them if they conducted work which found a link between the game and serious brain injury. Taken in total, the story suggests that for decades the NFL was not just ignorant of the problem but intentionally ignored it to the detriment of players.
Want to explore more? Click Here to order the book online now.
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