The NFL took another PR hit this week in the wake of a report by the New York Times that stated that the league’s concussion study had omitted more than 100 reported concussions from their research between 1996 and 2001. The issue that seemingly never goes away for the league has come back to the spotlight once again as people continue to question the link between football and CTE.
For many, the league is seen as a corporation trying to sweep everything under the rug. The tide of public opinion is gaining steam against the league in the matter of brain injuries and this latest news only serves as confirmation to them that the league was involved in something shady.
However, science is nuanced and often not as black and white as people would like. Which is something that Bleacher Report’s NFL National lead writer Jason Cole spoke to when he joined CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench on Thursday night.
“Here’s where I am on all of this. The NFL’s research back from ’96-2001 is crazy bad,” said Cole. “It’s run by people who were not prepared to do this kind of stuff. It’s obviously written from their slant. It smells to high heaven.”
“The research on the other side with guys like Bennett Omalu and this woman up at Boston University is pretty close to just as faulty, because they’re doing the same thing,” said Cole. “In other words, they’re coming to a pre-conceived conclusion about what football does. I think that they’re trying to draw attention to themselves. What has to happen is, you have to have a group of people who are completely independent and are going to have to study this for a long time because there are things that don’t add up about CTE.”
Okay, but, regardless of slanted agendas on both sides of the aisle isn’t it fairly undeniable that the repeated head trauma that players experience leads to long-lasting effects on their health?
“Yes, do I think that football and all the repetitive brain injuries lead to CTE, yes. As a lay person I think that,” said Cole. “I think that anybody who watches football and knows football players who played for a long time sees these effects. But, how much? I don’t know. How much is it that versus how is your body constructed? What’s the chemical make-up of your body? Did you use steroids? Did you use certain drugs? Did you do certain activities? Because, look, Mike Webster used steroids. We all know that.”
Fair point. There are also numerous other sports (soccer, boxing, rugby, etc) that often involve the same kind of repeated head trauma that we see from NFL players. However, scientists haven’t tested many of those people for CTE. In fact, we don’t even know what a normal level of CTE is.
“Also, what are the CTE levels on normal human beings,” asked Cole. “Or the CTE levels on women’s soccer players? Or volleyball players. All these different sports that also have head trauma. I guess my final point to this is, let’s accept that sports has risk. Do we want to ban contact sports? Do we want to cocoon ourselves up and not live life with some level of risk? That’s preposterous. Let’s all have the warnings and as much insight as you possibly have about what’s going to happen. But, let’s not take away gladiator sports, things that people do that test the human spirit. It’s insane.”