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League of Denial Doc Was Well Done; Thoughts? What Should the NFL Do Next?

The documentary called “League of Denial” based on a book by two ESPN investigative reporters aired tonight on PBS. The book and documentary give a detailed look at the NFL and the science community’s handling of concussions suffered by NFL players.

I thought the special was very well done and consistent with the many pieces of reporting I’ve read on concussions in the NFL over the years. I’ve been a voracious reader on this topic since I first heard about it back in 2007. There wasn’t much in the doc that I didn’t know aside from the accusations that the league tried to bully Dr. Bennet Omalu into backing down from his initial research he published after studying a former player’s brain.

The rest of the doc wasn’t new to me but I’d imagine it was pretty sensational for those who are new to the topic. To recap for those who didn’t see it, the documentary looked at the efforts to evaluate former players’ brains for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition that causes the brain to deteriorate. The special touched on the late Mike Webster and Junior Seau among other players. Attention was given to how much Webster’s life deteriorated after football due to brain injuries and other issues. 

Appropriately, the documentary also touched on how important it is to talk about the jarring that takes place on every snap and not just the big hits. Dealing with “sub concussive” hits will be the NFL’s biggest challenge going forward now that they’ve begun reducing the amount of big hits in the league via rule changes. 

I’ve said this before but I think that the more the public learns about brain conditions and football the more they will demand the types of changes the league is already trying to make. Making the game safer (or softer, if we must use that word) will be critical to keeping the sport alive for future generations.

I’ve already noticed a chance in folks’ mentalities since a few years ago when the NFL first decided to enforce the pre existing helmet-to-helmet rule. Around the time I started my blog in 2010, I remember my readers and tweeps being livid at the changes and screaming about the game becoming soft of being killed by the commissioner. Rarely do you hear those complaints anymore, thankfully.

I’ve been fully on board with rule changes even as I lament the fines and suspensions defensive players have received in many cases. My personal opinion is that the defenseless receiver and helmet to helmet rules are intentionally impossible to follow. I think that the NFL wants players to voluntarily stop hitting each other before they have to make it rule. Just like the league backdoor’d it’s way into reducing hits on kickoff by moving the line.

All in all, I’m curious to know what folks who may be knew to the concussion subject think? Did this documentary influence the way you view the league and the game? 

P.S.: To watch League of Denial click here. The actual book can be ordered here.

P.S. II For a harrowing but very real and necessary descriptions of life in football read my post on former DT Kris Jenkins


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