Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Boy, the NFL is really in full-blown spin mode: NFL doctor says CTE is being “over-exaggerated”.

Here, this is great:
“I think the problem of CTE although real is it’s being over-exaggerated and it’s being extrapolated to youth football and to high school football,” Dr. Joseph Maroon said on Tuesday’s NFL Total Access.

He then shared some statistics that were a bit confusing, to say the least.  I interpreted it to mean that 63 cases of CTE were found in youth football players over a 59-year period from 1954 through 2013, when 30-to-40 million kids played football.  It wasn’t clear what Dr. Maroon was actually saying about CTE in youth football, and if the NFL plans to try to sell that all is well with doctors on the NFL payroll, anything any NFL doctor says needs to always be clear.

“It’s a rare phenomenon,” Dr. Maroon then explained.  “We have no idea the incidence.  There are more injuries to kids from falling off of bikes, scooters, falling in playgrounds, than there are in youth football.  Again, it’s never been safer.  Can we improve?  Yes.  We have to do better all the time to make it safer.  But I think if a kid is physically able to do it and wants to do it, I think our job is to continue to make it safer.  But it’s much more dangerous riding a bike or a skateboard than playing youth football.”

There's so much good stuff in here that it's hard to even sort through it all.

My favorite is that 63 cases of CTE have been found in youth football players out of "30-to-40 million" players. Awesome. Hey, does anyone want to mention that--currently--CTE can only be diagnosed after death, and then only by analyzing brain tissue? That might be relevant. And that it was essentially never looked for until very recently, and then only in very specific situations?

Rule #1: If the facts are not on your side, then frame the facts in a deceptive way. Not outright dishonest, but deceptive.

Also, and this is fantastic, "it's much more dangerous riding a bike or a skateboard than playing youth football." Again, this is brilliant, because he's talking about all injuries, not specifically to head trauma.

I wonder how much money Mr. Maroon (who is at least a neurosurgeon, and highly regarded) receives from the NFL each year.

Refer back to Rule #1, please.

Also, Mike Florio goes further away from reality:
We’ve known about the condition known as “Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy” for several years now.  From time to time, CTE takes center stage.  And then it fades into the background again.

That’s partially because the condition remains largely shrouded in mystery, especially as it relates to the symptoms and consequences of microscopic changes to brain tissue resulting in the accumulation of tau protein.  In an October 2013 item published at Deadspin, Dr. Matt McCarthy explained that there’s still no clear link between football and CTE, and more importantly between CTE and various cognitive problems that occur as football players age.

Again, more awesome. "the condition remains largely shrouded in mystery" sounds like it was taken directly from the playbook of tobacco companies, doesn't it? Remember how they claimed, for decades, that smoking didn't cause lung cancer because science couldn't specifically identify the mechanism by which it happened, even though there was an unimpeachable data-based link?

And again, Rule #1 gets used. CTE, based on the best available evidence, is caused by an accumulation of effects from both concussions and sub-concussive impacts. Does football have a gigantic number of these kinds of impacts? Yes. Is there an alarming number of ex-players whose brains have been shown to have CTE? Yes.

So how do you use Rule #1 in this situation? Raise the evidentiary threshold until it's above whatever current evidence exists, then say the evidence isn't clear. Genius!

And I have to say it's particularly well-done on Florio's part to quote something from a year and a half ago in a field where research is advancing incredibly rapidly, as well as using as an "authority" a doctor whose specialty is infectious diseases.

Isn't the stink coming off this incredible? That's why I think the NFL is panicking here. They seem to think that Borland's retirement is a far more substantial issue than I originally did.

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