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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog

A hug is duct tape for the soul.


As some of you will know, the PBS show Frontline devoted its October 8th program to the NFL concussion crisis, called appropriately "League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis." The following link will take you to an entire page of links to stories on the NFL's history of brain injury and what they have and have not done about it. Jack highly recommends that you visit this page and read up on some of the latest information available.

And here are some excerpts from a few of the articles available:

Since 2007, when headlines began to link the NFL and concussions, two questions have come to dominate the story: What did the league know about football’s risks to the brain, and when did it know it? With each high-profile suicide or scientific breakthrough, these questions have only grown more important. Many journalists have examined the crisis, seeking to determine what it may mean for the future of football. Here are some highlights:

GQ, March 2011
[Fred McNeil's] “memory started failing as early as the mid-’90s. He never told Tia; he didn’t understand it himself. Even when he got voted out of Zimmerman Reed, and then the next firing, and the next. Everything was just taking so long. Something that should take an hour was taking him four. Reading a brief. The simplest tasks. He blamed his deteriorating eyesight. He went to an eye doctor—the only medical help he ever sought. He got glasses, then stronger ones, and stronger ones still. He kept forgetting things. He was supposed to pick up Freddie at school. Forgot. So many thoughts just—poof! He learned to compensate. He learned to say ‘Nice to see you’ instead of ‘Nice to meet you.’ The latter was simply too risky. Apparently some of those people he had been saying that to were friends. But he had no memory of them. Blank. So it was ‘Nice to see you,’ always, just in case.”

New York Times, March 2007
“Mr. [John] Mackey is a sturdy 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds underneath his trademark black cowboy hat. He’s convivial with fans who remember him, but soon into any interaction quickly demonstrates his mental decline. During lunch on Friday, he used a spoon to drink his coffee, thinking it was soup, and uttered non sequiturs to almost any question, including several repetitions of ‘I want a cookie’ and ‘I got in the end zone.’”

ESPN, November 2006
“‘There’s going to be some controversy about you going back to play.’ Elliot Pellman looks Wayne Chrebet in the eye in the fourth quarter of a tight game, Jets vs. Giants on Nov. 2, 2003, at the Meadowlands. A knee to the back of the head knocked Chrebet stone-cold unconscious a quarter earlier, and now the Jets’ team doctor is putting the wideout through a series of mental tests. Pellman knows Chrebet has suffered a concussion, but the player is performing adequately on standard memory exercises. ‘This is very important for you,’ the portly physician tells the local hero, as was later reported in the New York Daily News. ‘This is very important for your career.’ Then he asks, ‘Are you okay?’ When Chrebet replies, ‘I’m fine,’ Pellman sends him back in.”

Popular Science, December 2012
“For equipment manufacturers, the demand for protective headgear has never been greater. Leading companies, as well as an army of upstarts, have responded by developing a number of new helmet designs, each claiming to offer unprecedented safety. The trouble is that behind them all lie reams of conflicting research, much of it paid for, either directly or indirectly, by the helmet manufacturers or the league.”

Wired, December 2012 
“There is no doubt the league is concerned. In 2011, the NFL’s Head Neck and Spine Committee rolled out a league-wide concussion assessment protocol, and the league’s $30 million donation to the NIH for the study of mild traumatic brain injury is the largest in NFL history.
Yet for all the league’s efforts, Johnson’s story is hardly unique. During the tenth week of this season, three star quarterbacks – Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers, Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears and Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles – were concussed, and each remained on the field for several plays before being benched. Smith managed to throw a 14-yard touchdown pass despite having blurred vision after a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit.”

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