NFL Research Flawed

NFL Research Flawed

From the New York Times Article entitled – In N.F.L., Deeply Flawed Concussion Research and Ties to Big Tobacco

For the last 13 years, the N.F.L. has stood by the research, which, the papers stated, was based on a full accounting of all concussions diagnosed by team physicians from 1996 through 2001. But confidential data obtained by The Times shows that more than 100 diagnosed concussions were omitted from the studies — including some severe injuries to stars like quarterbacks Steve Young and Troy Aikman. The committee then calculated the rates of concussions using the incomplete data, making them appear less frequent than they actually were.

Since the beginning of the American colonization, tobacco has been a powerful business. Because of tobacco’s addictive qualities profits were assured and these were not small profits, the tobacco industry made several trillion dollars over the past two centuries.

In the latter half of the 20th century, it became evident that tobacco use was dangerous to both the user and anyone exposed to the second hand smoke. Yet, in spite of the clear weight of the evidence, the industry was able to stall regulation for decades. It did this by a powerful public relations campaign designed to cast doubt on the science. It created studies and paid “scientists” to write a counter narrative. These delaying tactics made the industry many billions of dollars of profits and enabled them to buy up profitable businesses while moving much of their tobacco sales overseas.

Here we see the Tobacco industry playbook in use once again.  Often using the very same people that enabled the tobacco industry to stall and confuse the science, the NFL created a set of self serving studies that downplayed the dangers of concussion.

Like the tobacco industry, the NFL bought time, in this case, 13 years to continue to rake in the money as if nothing was happening. The human cost will never be fully calculated.

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NFL Research Flawed

Here, the NFL will have to diverge from the tobacco industry strategy. Tobacco tended to kill long term users who tended to be from the lower economic classes and they died quietly and painfully but generally outside the glare of publicity. Former NFL players do not perish quietly and their heartbreaking stories of brain damage find a ready market in a celebrity obsessed culture like ours.

So, the NFL is going to change. How? Presumably to something more low impact? I don’t know but it is going to change.

James Pilant

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