Today is Super Bowl Sunday, and even if your hometown’s team is one of the competitors, none has completely escaped chatter about the brain-injury controversy—from CNN’s report on the long-lasting damage suffered by former players, after years of impacts like those at left, to stories from Business Week and others on how states are already changing practice rules for school sports.
If you watch the game, you’ll see at least one of those expensive PSAs on the subject. And if you’re a New York Times reader, you might have seen the following quote from a 1928 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association: “There is a very definite brain injury due to single or repeated blows on the head or jaw which cause multiple concussion hemorrhages. … The condition can no longer be ignored by the medical profession or the public.”
The report was cited by science writer Deborah Blum, who took particular aim at the NFL’s “injury expert,” Dr. Ira Casson. Dr. Casson has repeatedly said that there is “not enough evidence” that the injuries were lasting; Blum advises he learn how to use Google, then gives more details of how the same gnarled lesions that we’re seeing now were found in autopsies 80 years ago.
Blum, a 56-year old Pulitzer-winning journalist, is the latest member of our Power Women for Safe Football club, the cavalcade of powerful women, many of them grandmothers, who helped jump-start the concussion debate.
This week, Rep. Linda Sanchez, one of the members that WVFC has previously profiled, was featured on Dan Rather Reports in the segment “Taking a Hit.” Sanchez told Rather that Casson and the NFL seemed “very reminiscent of the tobacco industry saying that smoking didn’t cause, um–any damage to your health because they had their own studies. And their own studies, surprisingly, concluded that–you know, concussions, you know, really weren’t a big deal. I’m paraphrasing here. But, for many years, the attitude was to kind of muddy the water, so to speak, and not come out with a strong statement about concussion.”
And just today, NPR featured Miami neurologist Dr. Gillian Hotz, 40, who described how players get away with hiding multiple concussions: “What happens is, they build up this sensitivity that it’s OK to have these headaches all the time, that it’s OK to be a little dizzy, it’s OK that their vision’s blacked out. It goes away and they just keep playing, and the next time, it happens faster and the headaches last a little longer.” (Click here to watch Dr. Hotz on ESPN, showing as well as telling.)
We wonder if Gay Culverhouse, the former owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who really blew the whistle on the NFL’s deceptions last fall, is pleased that things are starting to move — or if she, like many of us, is equally impatient that it took this long to start to make football safer.