Last night, I received an interesting alert from my ESPN app. Normally, I would ignore it. Their push alerts are usually something I’ve already seen on Twitter, or don’t care enough about to swipe right and read more.
But this one was different.
“Jerry Jones: Need more data before linking CTE, football.”
I did a double take. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Did the owner of one of the most valuable sports teams in the world just flat out deny the enormous body of science that has shown the link between football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy)?
And this just one week after the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety, Jeff Miller, told Rep. Jan Schakowksy (D-IL) that there is a link between football and brain trauma?
As my colleague Michael Halpern noted in a blog post almost three years ago, the NFL has a long history of covering up concussion and brain trauma research, almost unequivocally denying the connection between the violent hits in the game and brain damage.
Since then, scientists have studied the brain of a former star quarterback , and found that he was suffering from CTE. Since then, researchers at Boston University found CTE in 96 percent of NFL players that they examined, and 79 percent of all football players. Since then, there has been more research, an increase in the number of concussions in the NFL last season, and as I noted above, a stunning admission from the league itself, all showing the link between repetitive hits to the head in professional football and brain damage.
The first step to solving a problem is recognizing there is one. Previously, only one league official had ever publicly admitted to the link between football and long-term brain damage. Last week, Jeff Miller became the second. Now, the rest of the NFL, led by Commissioner Roger Goodell, needs to accept the science, and needs to accept reality. The owners, especially Jerry Jones, need to follow suit.
This very lucrative game is also a dangerous one. Instead of continuing to deny the science and spread misinformation, it’s time to for the league and the owners to find solutions to make the game safer.
This is not just a problem for the NFL. Thousands of pop warner leagues and high schools follow its lead. If the NFL and the owners continue to deny evidence, parents will have a more difficult time making informed decisions about the risks they should allow their kids to take.