By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Roger Goodell and the NFL has claimed for years to be taking seriously the issue of player safety, particularly with a focus on brain trauma.
The NFL’s actions have not backed up those words.
The latest example of the NFL’s tepid interest in discovering more information about the lasting effect of the league’s players banging their heads together dozens of times per game was exposed in a story by ESPN’s Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru for “Outside The Lines.”
Some of the information revealed in the story is so bizarre and so wild that it would’ve been difficult to come up with for a story of fiction.
For example: Since promising to dedicate $100 million into concussion research and prevention, the NFL has funded exactly one study on CTE, but it’s focused on horse jockeys instead of football players.
Another: That study is run by two doctors who have been vocal skeptics of CTE and certain aspects of the developments uncovered by doctors like Dr. Ann McKee, Dr. Robert Stern and Dr. Robert Cantu.
Here is a 2016 quote from a leading researcher on the project, Dr. Michael Turner: “When you look at the CTE research, you find that actually a lot of the people who they have seen don’t have CTE on their brain, and that normal people who’ve never had a concussion, and have stacked shelves in a supermarket all their lives, do have CTE. So we don’t really understand the relationship between CTE and concussion.”
(Considering Roger Goodell once stated publicly that the risk in playing tackle football is akin to the risk in sitting on a couch, it’s easy to see why the NFL would choose Turner for such a project.)
Here’s another bit of info about Turner: “During several presentations, Turner has played a highlight reel of jockeys falling off horses, set to a soundtrack of Benny Hill-like music, according to people who have seen the video.”
Per the ESPN report, the “primary co-researcher” on the project is Paul McCrory, who has openly questioned the veracity of Dr. McKee’s findings and once stated, “Well, I get a headache, maybe I’ve got CTE.”
In 2016, McCrory referred to media coverage of CTE and brain trauma as “all the carry on and hoo-ha” which served only to increase hysteria over an issue which he doesn’t really believe exists.
“It’s fair to say there is increasing skepticism around the world as to whether this condition actually exists or not,” McCrory said of CTE.
Again, these are the men to whom the NFL paid money in order to research the effects of concussion and brain trauma … in jockeys.
It doesn’t take a doctor to know that NFL players and jockeys have very little in common, from their physical size, to the types of hits their heads endure on a regular basis, to the frequency which they suffer these hits.
Yet the NFL — which bailed out of its agreement to help fund the NIH study just a year after Goodell stated a full commitment to the project — has chosen men who dismiss medical studies and share highlights of jockeys falling off horses set to Benny Hill music to lead their research in the field of concussions and brain trauma.
While the project has been the only research project funded by the league, the NFL has invested significant funds toward developing new technology with helmets … even though doctors have stated for years that the actual helmet can only do so much in preventing concussions in a sport like football.
The report stated that the NFL will choose more projects to invest in this fall. The chairman of the board in charge of choosing those projects, retired Army General Peter W. Chiarelli, said the league will “want to avoid funding a whole bunch of science fair projects.” Based on this farcical “study” in London regarding jockeys, going forward it would be difficult for the league to invest in anything worse.