The Future of Football: NYTimes Links Big Tobacco with NFL Concussion Study

mauf

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The Third Circuit has affirmed the league's settlement with former players over brain injuries. Unless the Third Circuit decides to rehear the case or the Supreme Court grants further review (neither of which is likely), the settlement is now final.

NY Times coverage here. The full text of the court's opinion is here.
 

tims4wins

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Add Thurman Thomas to the list of retired players suffering the effects

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/15314750/former-buffalo-bills-star-thurman-thomas-says-mood-swings-concussions

Thomas carries notes with him because he often can't keep focused, and he told a story about getting lost on a familiar road a few years ago.

"I didn't know where I was, and I didn't know what I was doing," he said. "I had to make the most difficult call I've ever made. I had to pull over on the highway, call my wife and explain to her the events that just happened. She said, 'You need to come back home.' I knew that there was a problem."
 

soxfan121

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Why is an adult man using "in2" to mean "into"?
Probably because Twitter is doing terrible things to our language. The 140 character limit forces people to make terrible usage choices. Is that 140 exactly? It might be. In which case, Kaplan was making sure the tweet was understandable and making bad choices.

I'm skeptical that "insurers" are going to leak the good stuff they find in discovery, or that the NFL has been dumb enough to keep paper copies of incriminating stuff given the number of lawsuits that might have gotten to discovery... but I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised.
 

Tyrone Biggums

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Ho hum

http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/15667689/congressional-report-finds-nfl-improperly-intervened-brain-research-cost-taxpayers-16-million

Congressional report says NFL waged improper campaign to influence government study

I hate this fucking league. Too bad I love football.
Right. I agree this is the most corrupt sports organization out there right now. Now we will once again get a press release with Goodell talking about integrity and protecting the shield. It's getting laughable.
 

tims4wins

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I love that Antonio Brown brought up issue with being fined more for excessive celebration than a blow to the head.

What are we doing here, fellas?

Man do I hate this league. If only I didn't love it!
 

Ralphwiggum

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So, it turns out Kevin Turner did not have ALS, but instead an advanced form of CTE:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/04/sports/football/lead-plaintiff-nfl-concussion-settlement-cte-kevin-turner.html?_r=0

Edit: That article seems to suggest that he did in fact have ALS that was caused by advanced CTE. I saw another report saying he didn't have ALS at all, but just died of advanced CTE.

Edit 2: Here's another money quote from a different article, seems like there is a difference of opinion as to whether CTE caused ALS, or whether advanced CTE mimics the symptoms of ALS:

“The severity of Mr. Turner’s CTE was extraordinary and unprecedented for an athlete who died in his 40s,” McKee said. “While he had typical cognitive symptoms and problems with impulse control associated with CTE, it also appears that CTE decimated the motor cortex of his brain at a young age, likely leading to his ALS symptoms.

http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/patriots/2016/11/study_finds_extraordinary_and_unprecedented_cte_level_in_kevin_turner_s
 
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EricFeczko

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So, it turns out Kevin Turner did not have ALS, but instead an advanced form of CTE:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/04/sports/football/lead-plaintiff-nfl-concussion-settlement-cte-kevin-turner.html?_r=0

Edit: That article seems to suggest that he did in fact have ALS that was caused by advanced CTE. I saw another report saying he didn't have ALS at all, but just died of advanced CTE.

Edit 2: Here's another money quote from a different article, seems like there is a difference of opinion as to whether CTE caused ALS, or whether advanced CTE mimics the symptoms of ALS:

“The severity of Mr. Turner’s CTE was extraordinary and unprecedented for an athlete who died in his 40s,” McKee said. “While he had typical cognitive symptoms and problems with impulse control associated with CTE, it also appears that CTE decimated the motor cortex of his brain at a young age, likely leading to his ALS symptoms.

http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/patriots/2016/11/study_finds_extraordinary_and_unprecedented_cte_level_in_kevin_turner_s
This is where I hate the term CTE. His symptoms and pathology were both consistent with ALS. It is conceivable, and there is epedimiological evidence to support (check studies on the swedish registry), that head trauma is a risk factor for ALS. Despite what some think, known single genetic factors (e.g. ARV4) account for a minority of cases.
McKee may just be trying to enhance the impact of CTE, and it harms the credibility of scientists to make such definitive claims.
Nevertheless, such bullshit should not detract from the fact that head trauma was a very likely factor in Kevin's probable ALS.
 

Average Reds

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This is where I hate the term CTE. His symptoms and pathology were both consistent with ALS. It is conceivable, and there is epedimiological evidence to support (check studies on the swedish registry), that head trauma is a risk factor for ALS. Despite what some think, known single genetic factors (e.g. ARV4) account for a minority of cases.
McKee may just be trying to enhance the impact of CTE, and it harms the credibility of scientists to make such definitive claims.
Nevertheless, such bullshit should not detract from the fact that head trauma was a very likely factor in Kevin's probable ALS.
For someone who is concerned about the effect of people pushing agendas, you are awfully casual in declaring this to be "bullshit" without actually studying those results.

Heal thyself ...
 

EricFeczko

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For someone who is concerned about the effect of people pushing agendas, you are awfully casual in declaring this to be "bullshit" without actually studying those results.

Heal thyself ...
The presence of tau phosphorylation is a hallmark of many dementia types. The likely reason is that tau phosphorylation is part of a chain reaction involving apoptosis (IIRC) of neurons. You see it in many dementias.

ALS is literally defined by motor neuron death. Tauopathy is one biological hallmark of ALS, but it is also possible to see all manner of deposits as well. The presence of ubiquitin, SOD1, or Fus, or other misfolded proteins account for about half of cases.

To say, "we found tau phosphorylation here and he was an athlete with head trauma" and therefore CTE is sloppy research. How is that diagnosis any distinct from pugilistic dementia from an eitiological perspective?

As of now McKee has conducted very little study of healthy controls, and has not tried to stratify the very heteregenous patients, whose symptoms easily fit into other dementia categories.

I am highly concerned about the credibility of this research, independent of the risk factors associated with head trauma. Sloppy research on such a public issue would make it easier for people to doubt the risk.
 

Steve Dillard

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http://www.fairwarning.org/2016/12/exponent/

Exponent’s most lucrative and enduring relationship is with the auto industry. In helping the industry fight lawsuits blaming deaths and injuries on flawed vehicle designs, the firm’s engineers over the years have taken some controversial and contrarian positions.

Shoulder belts, along with lap belts, are standard equipment in rear seats of all passenger vehicles for obvious safety reasons–but that wasn’t always the case. In 1992, while helping defend a lawsuit involving a catastrophic injury to a backseat passenger, Failure Analysis engineers published a paper challenging the value of shoulder belts, claiming they appeared to make no “measurable difference” in reducing injuries and deaths.
Exponent recently was enlisted for the defense of lawsuits over defective ignition switches in GM cars. The suits alleged that switch failures cut off power steering, braking and airbags, resulting in injuries and deaths.

Separate from the lawsuits, GM in September 2015 settled a criminal probe of the ignition switch problem, paying $900 million as part of a deferred prosecution agreement.

In the agreement, GM admitted that it had “failed to disclose a deadly safety defect to its U.S. regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” and “falsely represented to consumers that vehicles containing the defect posed no safety concerns.”

But when she testified in March in an ignition switch case in federal court in New York, Exponent engineer Jennifer Yaek seemed unaware or unwilling to concede what GM had already admitted.

When a lawyer questioned Yaek about the defective switches, she rejected the premise. “I am aware that there was a recall,” she said, “not a defect.”
 

bigq

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Well Exponent is in the business of influencing outcomes in the favor of their clients. No surprises there but it doesn't make them any less slimy. I wonder whether their reputation is any less favorable in the general public's eyes as a result of the bullshit they have pulled on behalf of tobacco, automotive and the NFL among others. I certainly wouldn't feel good about hiring them or working for them for that matter.
 

mauf

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Well Exponent is in the business of influencing outcomes in the favor of their clients. No surprises there but it doesn't make them any less slimy. I wonder whether their reputation is any less favorable in the general public's eyes as a result of the bullshit they have pulled on behalf of tobacco, automotive and the NFL among others. I certainly wouldn't feel good about hiring them or working for them for that matter.
There's nothing "slimy" about funding scientific research for reasons other than altruism.

Exponent is a huge firm. Some of its scientists are better than others. Some of its clients are more noble than others. I'm not surprised that plaintiff-side trial lawyers and left-wing activist groups don't like Exponent -- they have agendas of their own.

It's funny how the linked article chides businesses that fully disclose their funding of scientific research in the commonly accepted way for not making that disclosure even more prominent, while citing activist groups as though they are disinterested experts.
 

bigq

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I agree in general however I'm not sure how to describe in more favorable terms than slimy an attempt to discredit a link between cigarette smoking and cancer.
 

mauf

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I agree in general however I'm not sure how to describe in more favorable terms than slimy an attempt to discredit a link between cigarette smoking and cancer.
Minor point, but it was secondhand smoke. We've known for 100 years that smoking is harmful to health, but the harm to bystanders has only been understood relatively recently, which is why bans on public smoking didn't take off until the 1990s. My understanding is Exponent was doing work for tobacco companies at the height of that controversy; it's not like they were (to my knowledge) doing work questioning the link between smoking and lung cancer.

Obviously, there are consulting firms that refuse to work for tobacco companies, either because of moral objections or concerns about reputational damage. Exponent is not one of those firms. I don't have a problem with that, but I understand some people do.
 

EricFeczko

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Bumping this thread for a cool 2 minute visualization that demonstrates the value of simple motion sensors in understanding the effects of head trauma on the brain.

I'd have to read the study, before I decide how much to trust the model. To me, that misses the point here.
What we need is better data and better measurements to link on-field play with variation in brain structure and function. Even tracking systems (a mouth guard sensor system would cost about $30,000 USD for a stadium, excluding labor costs) would give us an idea as to the external forces that occur and affect the brain in real time. How many people can say with confidence the average force of an NFL hit? How do you answer the question of how "hard" hits affect the brain without knowing what is meant by "hard"?

The suggestion that this effects the falx cerebri and leads to a rippling effect is extremely interesting, to me. It suggests that resiliency of the brain may vary by cortical morphology (e.g. variation in the density of the falx cerebri, or variation in cortical folding patterns), which could explain the extreme heterogeneity found in CTE. Such morphology is easily measurable nowadays by structural MRI (~30 minute MRI session, give or take), and if the idea is true, could potentially be used to assess the risk of neurological damage from head trauma.
 
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That was one of the hardest things to read I've ever seen...but there was no way to stop once you start. Every fan should read this story.
 

dirtynine

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Not Safe for Children? Football’s Leaders Make Drastic Changes to Youth Game – New York Times

USA Football, the national governing body for amateur football, intends to introduce a drastically altered youth football game in response to declining participation and increasing public belief that the game is not safe for children to play.

The organization has created a new format that brings the game closer to flag football and tries to avoid much of the violence in the current version. Among the rule changes: Each team will have six to nine players on the field, instead of 11; the field will be far smaller; kickoffs and punts will be eliminated; and players will start each play in a crouching position instead of in a three-point stance.

“The issue is participation has dropped, and there’s concern among parents about when is the right age to start playing tackle, if at all,” said Mark Murphy, the president of the Green Bay Packers and a board member at USA Football.
 

bigq

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Gruden does not come across favorably in that article.

"There are a lot of geniuses out there that are diminishing football right now,” said Jon Gruden, a former coach of the Oakland Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who now works as an analyst for ESPN. “There are a lot of geniuses that are trying to damage the game, and ruin the game."

Not sure if his quote was taken out of context but leaving things as is seems to be having the same effect (meaning damaging the game) as declining participation at the youth level will likely lead to less interest in the game in the future. Leaving things as is is akin to burying your head in the sand.
 

tims4wins

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell delivered a strong statement against marijuana use Friday, telling ESPN Radio that the league sees no medical benefits and adding that "it may not be healthy for the players long-term."

But smashing your skull and developing CTE is?

God do I hate that man.

Edit: my favorite part

"And it's not as simple as someone just wants to feel better after a game. We really want to help our players in that circumstance, but I want to make sure that the negative consequences aren't something that is going to be something that we'll be held accountable for some years down the road."
 

Jed Zeppelin

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell delivered a strong statement against marijuana use Friday, telling ESPN Radio that the league sees no medical benefits and adding that "it may not be healthy for the players long-term."

But smashing your skull and developing CTE is?

God do I hate that man.

Edit: my favorite part

"And it's not as simple as someone just wants to feel better after a game. We really want to help our players in that circumstance, but I want to make sure that the negative consequences aren't something that is going to be something that we'll be held accountable for some years down the road."
Very illustrative slip there.

Did anybody follow up to ask him about the league's pill problem?
 

dirtynine

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Frank perspective from Jermichael Finley in the Player's Tribune about the immediate and gradual aftermath of his concussion-filled career, and how he eventually sought treatment.

https://www.theplayerstribune.com/jermichael-finley-packers-injury-retirement/

Glad he's on the right track, but at the end, after so much soul-searching about how football harmed him, he talks about getting into coaching football as a way to keep himself positively motivated. I wonder if he'll feel complicit in the concussions his players get. It's really hard to break up with the game for these guys.
 

Apisith

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It also makes me think whether the clinic is working, or it's a placebo and 10-15 years from now, he'll suffer from the same things older players do.

But reading that, my only reaction is that it's insane for anyone to let their kids play football.
 

Kenny F'ing Powers

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It also makes me think whether the clinic is working, or it's a placebo and 10-15 years from now, he'll suffer from the same things older players do.

But reading that, my only reaction is that it's insane for anyone to let their kids play football.
Placebo may be the only "cure" these guys have until science improves.
 
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GammonsSpecialPerson

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Good thing marijuana may reduce the effects of head trauma (half j/k; there's about a half dozen decent articles that suggest as much).

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-medical-marijuana-s-chemicals-may-protect-cells/
Which makes the owners resistance to dropping it from the drug program perplexing. This is one simple way for owners to indirectly address their concussion problem.

They aren't stupid (or poorly advised by lawyers) enough to think their lawsuit settlement covers them forever - are they?
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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Which makes the owners resistance to dropping it from the drug program perplexing. This is one simple way for owners to indirectly address their concussion problem.

They aren't stupid (or poorly advised by lawyers) enough to think their lawsuit settlement covers them forever - are they?
As always, follow the money.

Here is a quiz - which industry is a large sponsor of the NFL (and other sports leagues)? Here is your clue - in commercials, after they list one of the side effects they advise you call your doctor if it continues for four hours.

Marijuana can be grown in many places by just about anyone. It doesn't have to come in a little blue pill form. As such, it isn't very lucrative to big pharma or the NFL.
 

GammonsSpecialPerson

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As always, follow the money.

Here is a quiz - which industry is a large sponsor of the NFL (and other sports leagues)? Here is your clue - in commercials, after they list one of the side effects they advise you call your doctor if it continues for four hours.

Marijuana can be grown in many places by just about anyone. It doesn't have to come in a little blue pill form. As such, it isn't very lucrative to big pharma or the NFL.
Well, sure. But Big Pharma ain't wonder-drugging away the post-career concussion problems of players. (If owners believe that, they are stupider than I think). And Big Pharma's involvement in the treatment of current players (i.e. Toradol, etc.) is another potentially land-mined area for owners in the future. So while i get that advertising relationships are important, I am having trouble understanding why billionaires (and especially the actual billionaires, not the trustfundistas) are so lax and careless about this when they could take simple steps that would show them in a more sympathetic, "we tried!" light when this goes to court again. As I said, I can't imagine they are stupid enough to think themselves judgement proof even in the wake of their settlement. Nor do I buy that advertisers and product partners would keep them from getting off the tracks with this freight train coming down the tracks. The NBA owners - who have the same advertisers/partners - saw what was coming and got out of the way. Jerry Jones gets it. And he's supposedly very influential with his fellow owners. Is it just old-school prejudice about weed and stoners?
 

reggiecleveland

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My kid is built for Canadian football. Tweener between wideout and TE, which here is perfect slot receiver.
He doesn't want to play. though. I am happy about it.
 

EricFeczko

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As always, follow the money.

Here is a quiz - which industry is a large sponsor of the NFL (and other sports leagues)? Here is your clue - in commercials, after they list one of the side effects they advise you call your doctor if it continues for four hours.

Marijuana can be grown in many places by just about anyone. It doesn't have to come in a little blue pill form. As such, it isn't very lucrative to the NFL.
My reply is beyond the scope of the thread -- feel free to move somewhere else.
The ability to properly research marijuana and its associated compounds is extremely lucrative for the pharmaceutical industry, given the difficulties and pitfalls of modern drug discovery efforts.
EDIT: I do agree with your general premise. I suspect the owners will be using the marijuana issue as leverage in negotiations, since the NFLPA is pushing to remove it as a banned substance.
 
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Hoodie Sleeves

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. Is it just old-school prejudice about weed and stoners?
The owners are largely 60+ year old conservative white men, and the players are largely young black men. I wouldn't rule it out.


But yes, there's definitely some merit to the idea that a significant chunk of it is just the adversarial relationship between the union and the league, and one side feeling like they can get something.
 

Dummy Hoy

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This really should be its own thread.

Out of 202 deceased former football players total -- a combination of high school, college and professional players -- CTE was neuropathologically diagnosed in 177, the study said. The disease was identified in 110 out of 111 former NFL players. It was also found in three of the 14 high school players and 48 of the 53 college players.
Now, I appreciate the study admitting the numbers may skew a bit heavy:

The study points out potential bias because relatives of these players may have submitted their brains due to clinical symptoms they noticed while they were living. It also acknowledges the lack of a comparison group that represents all individuals exposed to college-level or professional football. Without that, the study lacks an overall estimate on the risk of participation in football and its effects on the brain.
But this is still even uglier than I think most people thought.
 

Ale Xander

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Congrats to Comm Ave for this study. Not only are we the hub of education and the City of Champions, but a combination of both as well. Maybe this news explains the rash of the smart players retiring early recently.

https://www.bu.edu/research/articles/cte-former-nfl-players/

Also congrats to tims4wins, IIRC, for being right on this issue early on. Long term health of this sport isn't good, pun intended.