Jerry Jones, the Arkansas native and former Razorback football player who owns the Dallas Cowboys, isn’t happy that the NFL has adopted the position that football can lead to degenerative brain problems.
His comments are reminiscent of nothing so much as the tobacco industry.
Speaking at the league’s owners meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., Jones said Tuesday it is “absurd” to believe there is a connection between playing football and developing ailments such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
“There’s no data that in any way creates a knowledge,” Jones said, according to the Washington Post. “There’s no way that you could have made a comment that there is an association and some type of assertion. In most things, you have to back it up by studies. And in this particular case, we all know how medicine is. Medicine is evolving. I grew up being told that aspirin was not good. I’m told that one a day is good for you. … I’m saying that changed over the years as we’ve had more research and knowledge. …
“There’s no research. There’s no data. … We’re not disagreeing. We’re just basically saying the same thing. We’re doing a lot more. It’s the kind of thing that you want to work … to prevent injury.”
Jones added, “We are very supportive of the research. … We have for years been involved in trying to make it safer, safer as it pertains to head injury. We have millions of people that have played this game, have millions of people that are at various ages right now that have no issues at all. None at all. So that’s where we are. That didn’t alter at all what we’re doing about it. We’re gonna do everything we can to understand it better and make it safer.”
People with medical degrees disagree with Jones’ analysis, including Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist who concluded unequivocally after diagnosing CTE in the brains of 176 people including 90 of 94 former NFL players that there was a link between football and CTE.
I hope Jerry Jones has seen the Frontline documentary, “League of Denial: Inside the NFL’s Concussion Crisis,” about pathologist Bennet Omalu’s examination of the brain of former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster.
As a neuropathologist, Omalu was especially interested in the brain. Inside Mike Webster’s brain, he’d make a startling discovery: a disease never previously identified in football players. The condition, known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, was the first hard evidence that playing football could cause permanent brain damage. Players with CTE have battled depression, memory loss, and in some cases dementia.
“I had to make sure the slides were Mike Webster’s slides,” Omalu told FRONTLINE. “I looked again. I saw changes that shouldn’t be in a 50-year-old man’s brains, and also changes that shouldn’t be in a brain that looked normal.”
The NFL tried to discredit Omalu. But as other research continued and similar findings emerged, the NFL was forced to adopt the position that, yes, head-knocking can be bad for your noggin. I don’t think Jerry Jones would have to look to hard among former Arkansas players to find some other cases worthy of examination.
PS: AETN has plans to air another documentary on concussions in young athletes. Somebody set Jones’ VCR.