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Old 10-11-2013, 09:45 AM   #1
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frontline - league of denial: the nfl's concussion crisis (se32ep3,4 oad 10/8/2013)

after watching this week's frontline (and after falling asleep during my first two attempts), it turned out to be a very interesting journey through the nfl's 20 year progression (and regression) of their position on traumatic brain injuries in the sport.

this exposÚ certainly revealed information that told a very interesting story. it airs again tonight, twice tomorrow, and is available to stream online:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontl...gue-of-denial/
anyone else watch it? opinions?
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Old 10-11-2013, 10:21 AM   #2
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My boss was talking about it today - I'll probably watch it some time this weekend.

I love Frontline.
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Old 10-11-2013, 10:45 AM   #3
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I have this recorded and will get to it eventually. The backstory on the making of this documentary is interesting. Originally this was co-produced by ESPN, but they backed out of the project. Indeed the two producers and interviewers who made the film are ESPN investigative employees. Supposedly there was an issue with content control and they left, but many believe that the NFL put pressure on ESPN to back out of the project.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/24/sp...pagewanted=all

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/10/sp...it-a-lift.html
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Old 10-11-2013, 12:07 PM   #4
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Watched it a few days ago. It was interesting but I don't think that it will change much. Perhaps for younger kids but definitely not for the NFL. With so much money and fame available, there will still be a ton of people willing to risk CTE for that chance. And as spectators, we won't care because these are adults making that decision.
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Old 10-11-2013, 03:40 PM   #5
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Sounds interesting. Thanks for the heads-up!
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Old 10-11-2013, 03:53 PM   #6
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The backstory on the making of this documentary is interesting. Originally this was co-produced by ESPN, but they backed out of the project.
very interesting, thanks for sharing the links! i saw the shared production credits, but had no clue espn had backed out of promoting the show just before air.
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Old 10-11-2013, 04:30 PM   #7
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I thought it was good. Wish the NFL would have cooperated to get their side out. But the film makers did they best they could to present the other side (Frontline documentaries are usually pretty well balanced).

I think it's pretty clear the NFL IS recognizing there are risks and are doing things to reduce it some. Things like calls on helmet to hemet tackles/collisions. Changing kickoff rules, etc. etc.

It could be a major problem at the youth levels if moms (and dads) just decide to not let their kids play. That's not in the best interest of the NFL

Still, I would like to see more and more research. I know it's asking for a lot, but getting as many brains from those who played football, the better. Not just NFLers. It seems even people who only got through college ball can have the issues. Study as much as you can. It seemed a lot of the data was from people that died very unexpectedly with unusual circumstances. Still, even with in that sub group, the results seem pretty alarming. Getting your bell rung, even if it doesn't cause actual concussions, is a bad thing.
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Old 10-12-2013, 02:19 PM   #8
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A couple questions...

How many deaths are considered "acceptable" in a sport?

Would you want your son to play football beyond high school after watching this show? How about for $10M?

I'm also wondering, is it possible to play in the NFL for a number of years without sustaining brain damage?

I think it's pretty sad that the NFL was telling the players that it's ok to play after suffering a concussion. No wonder they lost the lawsuit.

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Old 10-12-2013, 02:37 PM   #9
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Still, I would like to see more and more research...It seemed a lot of the data was from people that died very unexpectedly with unusual circumstances.
that's my biggest concern with the presented evidence - most of the donations for research were from players already showing signs of trouble. future studies must include evidence of players who never showed symptoms and were healthy. this is the only way to begin to prove the cause.
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Would you want your son to play football beyond high school after watching this show? How about for $10M?
after evidence from the 18yo high school player was presented, no way would i consider any football, at any age, until more is learned.
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Old 10-12-2013, 04:13 PM   #10
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Is there a way to detect and diagnose this condition without needing to exam brain tissue?
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Old 10-12-2013, 06:50 PM   #11
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Thanks for the info. Downloading now from iTunes.
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Old 10-12-2013, 07:49 PM   #12
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Is there a way to detect and diagnose this condition without needing to exam brain tissue?
no, there isn't, at least not yet. that's the reason there are so few samples. it's a very personal decision, but i wish more healthy current and former players would consider making the sacrafice so more could be learned.
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Old 10-14-2013, 08:20 AM   #13
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A couple questions...

How many deaths are considered "acceptable" in a sport?
I'm assuming that's rhetorical. None as far as I'm concerned.

Quote:
Would you want your son to play football beyond high school after watching this show? How about for $10M?
I havent' watched this yet, but I've formed opinions on the subject based on other things I've read/heard. My answer is, no. Not when there are other sports they could play that are safer (and smarter to play). Consider that the career span of an NFL player is shorter than most other sports and they get paid less and have no guaranteed contracts. Baseball for example is a safer sport where those players who make it play longer and backups make more than many NFL starters and contracts are guaranteed. What the NFL does to their players is a travesty. And colleges are no better, but that's a subject for a different day.

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I'm also wondering, is it possible to play in the NFL for a number of years without sustaining brain damage?
I was listening to a local talk show where they had on a renown brain surgeon/researcher who wrote a book on the subject. The problem is, that the nature of the sport leads to brain injuries. Ones that helmets cannot fix. It's not the trauma to the outside of the head, but the fact that the human brain has not evolved to handle that kind of movement within the skull, so the type of jolting and sudden movements that a football player makes can lead to brain injuries. He compared it to the woodpecker, who constantly bangs his head against a tree when he peck. His head has evolved so that it can handle this constant jolting. The human brain doesn't.

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I think it's pretty sad that the NFL was telling the players that it's ok to play after suffering a concussion. No wonder they lost the lawsuit.
They didn't lose the lawsuit, they settled, with no admission of guilt. And many believe they settled for FAR less than they would have lost had the suit gone through the courts. The reasoning behind the settlement from the ex-players standpoint is they need help now and a lawsuit would have taken a lot of time to go through the courts and the many appeals.

Looking forward to watching this and seeing if any of this was addressed.
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Old 10-14-2013, 09:50 AM   #14
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I watched it and thought it was very well done.

I won't let my 11 year old son play tackle football and he really wants to play. That was before this. I have told him, as the lead women in this show said, when he gets to high school i would reconsider it but i am hopeful that the desire will wane by then.

I agree that we need some more "clean" deaths and see what their brains look like. Meaning that there was no drug abuse and other weird outside stuff.
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Old 10-14-2013, 09:53 AM   #15
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I think the NFL knows that playing football can cause serious problems down the road. I also think they are trying to figure out how to deal with this fact. Do they change the rules drastically? Move to 7 on 7? Who knows. I think they are way more cautious now of keeping guys out when they are injured. Honestly I think this is the thing that saved Aikman. Watching him play all those years he was man enough to take himself out if he was hurt and never tried to go back in, at least from what I recall.

I would like to see data on concussions and CTE on life long rugby and Australian rules football players because some have suggested because they don't wear helmets they have fewer problems.

Also ESPN is to blame they need to stop celebrating big hits on the Sportscenter and highlight great plays and skill in players doing things the right way.
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Old 10-14-2013, 09:53 AM   #16
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Also some have suggested give the players data when they enter the league and an option to buy a down the road policy to cover health costs and then have them sign a waiver.
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Old 10-14-2013, 11:50 AM   #17
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I think the NFL knows that playing football can cause serious problems down the road. I also think they are trying to figure out how to deal with this fact. Do they change the rules drastically? Move to 7 on 7? Who knows. I think they are way more cautious now of keeping guys out when they are injured. Honestly I think this is the thing that saved Aikman. Watching him play all those years he was man enough to take himself out if he was hurt and never tried to go back in, at least from what I recall.

I would like to see data on concussions and CTE on life long rugby and Australian rules football players because some have suggested because they don't wear helmets they have fewer problems.

Also ESPN is to blame they need to stop celebrating big hits on the Sportscenter and highlight great plays and skill in players doing things the right way.
Aikman tells the story, and I think it was in the NFC Championship game against SF, about how he had his "bell rung...a concussion" and they put him back in the game, he throws a TD pass and then goes to the bench and has no memory of doing that. He says to this day he can't remember throwing that pass. Maybe he got smart after that, but he definitely played with concussion symptoms.
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Old 10-14-2013, 12:14 PM   #18
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I would like to see data on concussions and CTE on life long rugby and Australian rules football players because some have suggested because they don't wear helmets they have fewer problems.
American football is a very different sport from those. The players are so big and hit each other so hard, that the injuries would be way worse if they didn't wear helmets.
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Old 10-14-2013, 12:55 PM   #19
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American football is a very different sport from those. The players are so big and hit each other so hard, that the injuries would be way worse if they didn't wear helmets.
OTOH, maybe if they didn't wear helmets they wouldn't hit each other as hard? Or smaller pads for that matter. Those hard pads against someone's head have to hurt as well.
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Old 10-14-2013, 01:03 PM   #20
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OTOH, maybe if they didn't wear helmets they wouldn't hit each other as hard?
this was close to my line of thought. for what little concussion and external protection provided by a helmet, it adds a greater (false) sense of security that contributes to the repeated "shaking brain" collisions, which appear to be the greater danger later in life.

now with the nih researching, and adding growing publicity, maybe it'll lead to more answers.
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Old 10-14-2013, 01:09 PM   #21
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Aikman tells the story, and I think it was in the NFC Championship game against SF, about how he had his "bell rung...a concussion" and they put him back in the game, he throws a TD pass and then goes to the bench and has no memory of doing that. He says to this day he can't remember throwing that pass. Maybe he got smart after that, but he definitely played with concussion symptoms.
You should watch the show and listen to Lee Steinberg's tale of that day. It's pretty frightening.
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Old 10-14-2013, 01:20 PM   #22
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OTOH, maybe if they didn't wear helmets they wouldn't hit each other as hard? Or smaller pads for that matter. Those hard pads against someone's head have to hurt as well.
Look at what they said about Mike Webster and how he lead with his head on blocking so much he developed scar tissue on his forehead. Would he have done that had he not been wearing a helmet?
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Old 10-14-2013, 01:48 PM   #23
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this was close to my line of thought. for what little concussion and external protection provided by a helmet, it adds a greater (false) sense of security that contributes to the repeated "shaking brain" collisions, which appear to be the greater danger later in life.

now with the nih rearching, and adding growing publicity, maybe it'll lead to more answers.
My thought is, if the NFL took away hard hits, would anyone watch? I kind of look at it this way. Boxing, UFC and other fighting sports are popular (or have been popular for years. The difference is, that fighters understand that it's part of the sport, and fans do too. Nobody is going in with their eyes closed. There have been movements to ban those sports for years now. Maybe football needs to be lumped in with those sports. You play those sports, you understand the risk. But to me, it's up to the league (or the conference in the NCAA or the High School) to be up front about it. At the high school and below level its up to the parents to decide if their kid should play. For some, it will be worth the risk (Thinking that it might be their kid's only chance to go to college, or whatever), for others, it's not. My problem isn't with the brutality of the sport, but the fact that it's swept under the rug in the quest for the almighty dollar. Heck, feeding people to lions used to be a sport during Roman times too.!!
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Old 10-14-2013, 01:50 PM   #24
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You should watch the show and listen to Lee Steinberg's tale of that day. It's pretty frightening.
I plan to. I know the story because Aikman has talked about it numerous times and it's scary that any doctor would approve of him playing in that condition.
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Old 10-14-2013, 01:55 PM   #25
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Look at what they said about Mike Webster and how he lead with his head on blocking so much he developed scar tissue on his forehead. Would he have done that had he not been wearing a helmet?
Exactly. They talk about the players being bigger. But proportionally are they bigger compared to each other than they always were? For instance, an OL is probably averaging 325, but a DL is now approaching 300. Years ago, you might have an OL who was 275, but a DL was probably only 250. Proportionally it's about the same. Every position players are bigger. But what has changed since the 1950s for instance? Pads are bigger and harder, helmets are bigger and harder, and there's more of a fearlessness because of it. Rugby is an equally brutal sport. Tackling and running and a lot of the same thing. Yet we don't hear about this. Because the players padding and head protection is more limited. The added force of getting hit with those big helmets has to be exponentially greater than getting hit with a leather helmet. Same with hard padding.
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Old 10-14-2013, 02:37 PM   #26
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My thought is, if the NFL took away hard hits, would anyone watch?
without hits, the nfl would crumble as an industry. i believe if there was less "protective" gear (that offers limited or the wrong type of protection at best), certain hits would hurt a little more, and the players would be forced to become more creative, and not so quick to rely on force.

of course, if other injuries skyrocket as a result, a change could be as bad or worse. this will take dedicated, objective research, but bottom line - playing for the nfl shouldn't cut your enjoyable life after the game in half, or stop cognitive mental functioning - that's too much to ask, even of willing players.
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Old 10-14-2013, 04:41 PM   #27
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Without hits, the nfl would crumble as an industry. i believe if there was less "protective" gear (that offers limited or the wrong type of protection at best), certain hits would hurt a little more, and the players would be forced to become more creative, and not so quick to rely on force.
Exactly. Without the protection, the entire sport would be different. When I was in college, I spent a semester in Australia. My Aussie friends would always make fun of the NFL players and say stuff like, "Your American football players are such pussies compared to our Australian Rules players who don't wear any protective gear." I would say to them, "Have you ever actually watched an NFL football game? Have you seen the hits? Players would literally be getting paralyzed or killed on a regular basis if they didn't have all that equipment."
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Old 10-14-2013, 10:28 PM   #28
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I haven't watched this episode yet, but about a month ago there was another Frontline called Football High, which I thought was really good. It sounds like it was along the same lines as this one, but it focused on how hard kids are pushed in high school, where there is far less regulations protecting them than than there are for college/pro level sports.
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Old 10-15-2013, 07:51 AM   #29
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Exactly. Without the protection, the entire sport would be different. When I was in college, I spent a semester in Australia. My Aussie friends would always make fun of the NFL players and say stuff like, "Your American football players are such pussies compared to our Australian Rules players who don't wear any protective gear." I would say to them, "Have you ever actually watched an NFL football game? Have you seen the hits? Players would literally be getting paralyzed or killed on a regular basis if they didn't have all that equipment."
If you ever watched old newsreels of football from the 30s and 40s, it's much more like Aussie Rules or Rugby in the way tackles were made. Much less hard hitting. I finally watched most of this, and as they pointed out, when the NFL because such a huge TV sport (MNF they claim is the seminal moment), they amped up the violence. The game as we know it today is a creation of the NFL marketing machine. And this was increased 10 fold once ESPN and other highlight shows (HBOs Inside the NFL..now on Showtime) became must watch. Much like hockey highlights tend to be fights a lot of football highlights focused on hard hits. But apparently that's what people want, because popularity skyrocketed. If they went back to the old game where technique was everything, I'm not sure if people would watch. I actually think it would be a better game and you'd see less mis-tackles and holding penalties. But I tend not to be drawn to team sports by violence, especially over the top violence.
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