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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Head Games--Part 2

My head isn't really staying in the correct mode to do a whole series on sports and concussions. I guess too many other things are going on, and this is a weight-loss blog, so I'm going to wrap it up here. But I do think this is an important issue. So I'm going to share the links that I've had sitting open on my computer for a couple weeks now.

"Iron Mike" Webster is one of the best and saddest examples of the sad consequences of multiple concussions. Here's his Wikipedia entry, which details some but not all of the causes of his eventual homelessness and dementia. There is also a 5 part series on ESPN.com about his career, his mental decline, and the impact on him and his children and wife, as well as the NFL's atrocious handling of veterans and disability.

Another former Steeler, Terry Long, died in 2005 and was one of the four former NFL players who were identifed post mortem as having chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Terry Long's final years were marked by poor business decisions and depression, and he was eventually found to have committed suicide by ingesting antifreeze.

Men's Journal ran an excellent article called Casualties of the NFL. It details some of the ongoing health problems of NFL vets, and the efforts of folks like Mike Ditka and the Gridiron Greats organization to get the NFL and the NFLPA (their players' association) to take care of the men who bring the dollars in for the owners and the top brass.

At the very heart of this whole concussion mess is Dr Elliott Pellman, who was the Jets' team doctor and became the NFL's concussion expert, despite the fact that he is a rheumatologist, not a neurologist or neurosurgeon. Dr Pellman has done a great deal of "research" which has been published, and widely criticized in peer review by experts in head trauma. He has maintained that there is no danger in returning players to play after receiving a concussion, despite the fact that all other literature available on the topic recommends that players be held out of play at least 7 days post concussion. He's even more of a tool than that--it was discovered a few years ago that he claimed on his curriculum vitae that his medical degree was earned at SUNY Stony Brook, when in fact he earned it in Guadalajara, Mexico. After that fact was made public, he resigned from the NFL's Concussion committee, but is still employed by the NFL.

The problem with this deception is that teams, from the kiddie leagues to the NCAA, look to the NFL for guidance in treating concussions. The NFL has a profit motive to keep their players in the game, and forms its recommendations accordingly. This puts players everywhere in danger.

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