Debate Over Football Concussions Takes a Bizarre Turn as NFL’s Science Criticized

For decades, the National Football League (NFL) researched head injuries and played down the sobering results of this inquiry in a series of papers released to league leadership and the public. Now, the science behind those papers is facing closer scrutiny from sources like the New York Times, and the analysis is revealing even more problems with the research.

Since the early 2000s, the NFL’s data source has been a database of reported player concussions from 1996 to 2001, a source the league claims accounts for all the concussions players suffered during that period. Recently, however, over 100 diagnoses have come to light that weren’t on the list. Some of these affected the league’s biggest stars at the time, such as quarterbacks Steve Young and Troy Aikman.

The missing diagnoses made up over 10 percent of the total, meaning that the NFL’s estimates of concussion occurrences were misleadingly low. Debate abounds regarding whether or not the NFL deliberately under-reported these numbers. In addition, some peer reviewers have been affiliated with NFL teams. Critics say these reviewers thus lacked independence and objectivity.

The NFL has long disavowed any comparison of its science tactics to those deployed by the tobacco industry several decades ago, when cigarette manufacturers went to great lengths to suppress or distort data highlighting health risks of smoking. However, further investigation reveals that the comparison may be more apt than the league admits. The New York Times claims to have discovered that several lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants worked both with Big Tobacco and the NFL over the last several years and that these people manipulated data in similar ways.

Bear in mind that, when assessing dangers from playing sports, taking medications or engaging other risky activities in life, you really need to understand the Difference Between Absolute Risk and Relative Risk.

Call our Washington D.C. personal injury attorneys for insight into your possible case.