Report: NFL's Concussion Research Is Heavily Flawed

And the league appears to have taken a page from the Big Tobacco playbook
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2016 2:23 PM CDT
Report: NFL's Concussion Research Is Heavily Flawed
The Pittsburgh Steelers' Antonio Brown suffered a concussion during this hit during an NFL playoff game in January.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

An investigation by the New York Times has revealed that the NFL's concussion research is "far more flawed than previously known." The NFL started publishing its research—supposedly based on all concussions diagnosed by team physicians between 1996 and 2001—in 2003 and has been using it as evidence that concussions don't cause long-term problems for players for the past 13 years. But the Times found more than 100 concussions, including major ones to star players, missing from the NFL's data. That's 10% of the NFL's total data set. "Even the league’s harshest critics have never suggested, and no evidence has ever arisen, that the underlying data set could be so faulty," the Times states.

NFL officials explained the missing data—which made concussions seem less frequent than they actually were—by saying teams weren't required to submit their concussion data for the research. The league denies it was trying to "alter or suppress the rate of concussions." It seems to some to be a page from the tobacco industry's playbook. And—despite an NFL lawyer calling the tobacco industry "perhaps the most odious industry in American history"—the Times found the two had a lot in common, including lawyers and consultants, and shared everything from lobbying advice to dinners. As a neuropsychologist who once worked for the New York Jets sums up: "You’re not doing science here; you are putting forth some idea that you already have.” Read the full story here. (More NFL stories.)

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