First, a caveat: football is not my thing. I don’t play, I don’t watch, I can name every NFL player I’ve ever known on one hand. But I couldn’t put down League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth.
It reveals how the National Football League, over a period of nearly two decades, sought to cover up and deny mounting evidence of the connection between football and brain damage.
Exhaustive evidence indicates that the repeated violent collisions of football can lead to neurological disease. Not surprising, but when told by these two investigative reporters, it feels revelatory.
League of Denial is a gripping read, an expose with echoes of Big Tobacco’s fight to deny the connection between smoking and lung cancer. It’s the story of another multibillion-dollar industry looking to protect itself against charges of a deadly scourge. Another massive cover-up, another crusade against science.
But here’s why this cover-up may be even more disturbing than Big Tobacco: it affects children. If you play football, if your child plays football, if you’re a parent with a child considering playing football, you must read this book.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it – and talking about it – since I read the first chapter. The ways these former NFL players are dying – it’s macabre. One drank antifreeze. One drove himself into a tanker truck at 100 miles an hour. One shot himself in the chest in order to preserve his brain for study.
These players deserve more. And we deserve the truth – so we can make informed decisions about what we play, what we watch, how we support our kids in sports, and how we choose to spend our entertainment dollars.
Watch the PBS Frontline report: League of Denial.
What’s your take on this? Would conclusive reports of brain damage in NFL players be enough to make you – or your child – stop playing football?