An excerpt adapted from League of Denial, about the National Football League’s long denial about the connection between football and brain damage:
“Nine months later came yet another NFL study in Neurosurgery. This one dealt with repeat concussions. Numerous previous studies had shown that one concussion left the brain vulnerable to another concussion if the brain wasn’t given time to heal. But that wasn’t a problem in the NFL, according to Pellman, et al. The league looked at how quickly players went back on the field and concluded that they were at no greater risk than if they had never been concussed at all. The logic was that because players returned to the field so quickly, they must have been O.K. or the medical staff wouldn’t have cleared them. This flew in the face not only of previous research but of widely known realities on an NFL sideline. First, players often didn’t report their injuries. Second, they hid their symptoms whenever they could. Third, NFL doctors often deferred to the wishes of coaches and players.
“For the first time, the NFL also took on the issue of football and brain damage, a growing concern among researchers. The league’s scientific opinion? This wasn’t a problem in the NFL either. Boxers got brain damage. Football players didn’t. It was as simple as that. ‘This injury has not been observed in professional football,’ Pellman and his colleagues wrote.
“That was technically true: No one had yet cut open the skull of a dead football player to examine his brain for signs of neurodegenerative disease. But that day was coming.”