NFL Reportedly Attempted to Discredit Research Linking Brain Damage to Football

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2013

Few would be willing to argue against the fact that concussions suffered by playing football can adversely affect players later in life, but the NFL attempted to do precisely that, according to an upcoming book, per Don Van Natta Jr. of   

The book, entitled League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth, is co-authored by ESPN investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru.

The Fainaru brothers claim that the NFL crusaded against linking football to brain damage for two decades, and while it started under Paul Tagliabue's regime, current NFL commissioner Roger Goodell continued to dispute scientific findings until 2010.

In recent years, the NFL has very much embraced the notion of making football safer in order to prevent head injuries, and it settled a $765 million lawsuit with former players in September, according to Ian Begley of   

Despite Goodell's alleged past opposition to recognizing the relationship between football head injuries and future brain damage, he ultimately embraced the concussion settlement, saying, per Begley:

We were able to find a common ground to be able to get the relief to the players and their families now rather than spending years litigating when those benefits wouldn't go to the players. So we're very supportive of it and we think it's the right thing to move forward and to try to do what we can to help our players and their families.

While $765 million seems significant on the surface, former NFL center and Players Association president Kevin Mawae put it in perspective as the league continues to grow and generate more revenue on a year-to-year basis.

NFL concussion lawsuit net outcome? Big loss for the players now and the future! Estimated NFL revenue by 2025 = $27 BILLION

— Kevin Mawae (@KevinMawae) August 29, 2013

Among the accusations that the Fainaru brothers have levied against the NFL: Tagliabue set up a concussion committee meant to debunk scientific findings; the league ignored warnings from neuroscientists beginning in 2000; the league attempted to have research removed from medical journals in 2005 that linked football to brain damage; and Goodell was warned about the connection in 2007, although it took him three years to end the NFL's concussion committee.

The concussion saga has been a long and serious one for the NFL, and the release of this book promises to keep it firmly in the public eye. The NFL obviously deserves a chance to tell its side of the story, but if such ignorance is ultimately proven true, it wouldn't be surprising to see more lawsuits in the future.


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