The Frontline program “League of Denial” aired last night, and put forth a very strong case to prove its title. It seems clear to me that the National Football League has been in denial for many years about the mounting scientific evidence of the connection between participating in the sport of football and brain injury. The reporters of Frontline continue to hold the NFL accountable as they conduct their weekly “Concussion Watch” in which possible concussions of players in the NFL are tracked. Reporters track players in all NFL games who are slow to get up after a hit or are taken out of games. Then this list is compared to the weekly injury reports released by each team. So far this season, thirty six concussions have been reported. Concussions are somewhat easy to track in this way. However, we now know it is possible for an individual to have Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) without ever having been diagnosed with a concussion.
Something else that struck me while watching “League of Denial,” is the way in which all of the fans of the sport are in a sort of denial as well. We don’t want to recognize the danger and consequences of this beloved sport. Reporters for the sport are included in this as many of them are fans as well. There are even some who acknowledge the danger and simply embrace it as part of football. Dr. Omalu, the first doctor to discover CTE in the brain of former player, Mike Webster, stated in the documentary he was told by an NFL doctor that if ten percent of mothers in this country refused to allow their sons to play football, it would be the end of the sport. This statement gave me a sense of what the NFL is fighting to save through their continued insistence that this game is safe. My hope is that through education, people, whether it be parents or the players themselves, will have accurate information with which to base their decisions.