The New York Times reports today that it has found serious flaws in research done by the National Football League on concussions. A committee formed in 1994 issued reports playing down the danger of head injuries.
For the last 13 years, the N.F.L. has stood by the research, which, the papers stated, was based on a full accounting of all concussions diagnosed by team physicians from 1996 through 2001. But confidential data obtained by The Times shows that more than 100 diagnosed concussions were omitted from the studies — including some severe injuries to stars like quarterbacks Steve Young and Troy Aikman. The committee then calculated the rates of concussions using the incomplete data, making them appear less frequent than they actually were.
Unfortunate timing for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the Arkansas native and former Razorback, who made headlines yesterday by criticizing the NFL for at last acknowledging there might be a connection between football and degenerative brain problems.
Among much other information, the new information in the New York Times says:
The database does not include any concussions involving the Dallas Cowboys for all six seasons, including four to Mr. Aikman that were listed on the N.F.L.’s official midweek injury reports or were widely reported in the news media. He and many other players were therefore not included when the committee analyzed the frequency and lasting effects of multiple concussions.
Several other teams have no concussions listed for years at a time. Yet the committee’s calculations did include hundreds of those teams’ games played during that period, which produced a lower overall concussion rate.
A Cowboys spokesman, Rich Dalrymple, said the team had participated, but he declined to say how many cases were reported and which players were involved. He said he did not know why the Cowboys’ data did not appear in the studies.
Jones had called “absurd” scientific research linking football to brain damage.
I remarked yesterday that Jones’ defense was reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s long disputation of the unhealthful effects of their products. More coincidence: The Times’ report on concussion data said that evidence showed that pro football and the tobacco industry drew on many of the same lawyers, consultants and lobbyists.
In 1997, to provide legal oversight for the committee, the league assigned Dorothy C. Mitchell, a young lawyer who had earlier defended the Tobacco Institute, the industry trade group. She had earned the institute’s “highest praise” for her work.
A co-owner of the Giants, Preston R. Tisch, also partly owned a leading cigarette company, Lorillard, and was a board member of both the Tobacco Institute and the Council for Tobacco Research, two entities that played a central role in misusing science to hide the risks of cigarettes.
I’m guessing Jerry Jones doesn’t think much of climate change, either.