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ESPN’s Outside the Lines goes deep into NFL “Concussion Crisis”

1987 NFC Divisional Playoff Game - Washington Redskins vs Chicago Bears - January 10, 1988 Getty Images

In the latest sign that the story of brain injuries in the NFL is only getting bigger, ESPN has announced that it will devote a week of its investigative program Outside the Lines to examining concussions in the NFL from multiple angles.

In a series of shows it’s calling “The Concussion Crisis,” ESPN will dig deep into several issues related to concussions.

The concussions issue has certainly been dominating the football conversation recently,” the show’s senior coordinating producer Dwayne Bray said in a statement. “With the lawsuits against the NFL and some recent suicides by former players, people have a lot of unanswered questions. With this five-part series, we’ve included new interviews and analysis along with some material we’ve aired previously. It’s our hope that this reporting helps ESPN’s audience understand this story a bit better.”

Among the stories being explored are the way concussions affected 1980s Bears teammates Dave Duerson and Jim McMahon, lawsuits filed by Jamaal Lewis and Dorsey Levens, the deaths of former players Andre Watters and Mike Webster, and what the future of football might look like. Outside the Lines airs at 3 p.m. Eastern, Monday through Friday on ESPN.

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23 Responses to “ESPN’s Outside the Lines goes deep into NFL “Concussion Crisis””
  1. cakemixa says: May 7, 2012 1:11 PM

    What ever happened with OTL’s wire-tapping allegations against Saints GM Mickey Loomis? Is ESPN, for at least the second time in recent memory, once again sweeping a story under the rug, pretending it never happened? All only after making serious allegations that could harm a persons character/reputation?

  2. mindworm22 says: May 7, 2012 1:16 PM

    It’s not just the concussions, folks. It’s about the cumulative head trauma. Studies show that the concussion folks actually are better off in many cases than those who don’t get diagnosed due to the fact that they’re removed from contact and swelling can decrease.

    I hate to say it, but the evidence that’s out there isn’t just about the “big hit”. It’s about the inherent nature of the game. That’s not going to change, and I truly fear that the game we all know and love will be a shadow of its former self rather quickly.

    Anyone in the medical field that reads the journals knows this. The fact that ProFootballTalk and others keep talking about the “big hit” is a testament to the NFL’s marketing arm.

    Go look at pubmed. It’s astonishing what’s coming to light….

  3. benh999 says: May 7, 2012 1:52 PM

    It kind of figures that the sensationalistic garbage OTL puts out there is the only thing ESPN does that PFT doesn’t mock.

  4. tabcdef9 says: May 7, 2012 2:09 PM

    Where is Riddell (and any other helmet makers) in this discussion? Surely Riddell can further improve the helmet like in a Moon Program type effort – worth it for the NFL to be a major funder of that research.

    I heard, maybe 2 years ago, that Riddell did come up with a safer helmet but that most players did not want to wear it for some reason. Anyone know about that?

  5. dscol715 says: May 7, 2012 2:30 PM

    This isnt a problem that can be solved with helmets because most concussions are not caused by blunt force trauma to the head but rather the sudden change of direction at high speeds caused by a big hit which makes the brain crash into the inside of the skull. Its like when you are on the highway and slam the breaks on and everyone flies forward. That is what happens inside of your skull when you take a big hit.

  6. rdrllldubk says: May 7, 2012 2:38 PM

    For what its worth, the Scientist at Notre Dame, along with the football team are designing and trying out new ways to improve the safety of helmets. You’ll notice that the helmets they wear are a little different than the ones other teams wear.

  7. mindworm22 says: May 7, 2012 2:43 PM

    Again, it doesn’t matter what kind of helmet is used. The constant knocking of heads and the cumulative effect that follows is the major issue that the league will have to deal with, not just concussions.

    If memory serves, one of their own Doctors that they employed to do the research years back is the one that started this line of thought and, now, is the giant elephant in the room that everyone — including PFT – continues to ignore.

    Cumulative head trauma and CTE are not going to go away no matter what happens with the helmets.

  8. ynot1381 says: May 7, 2012 2:50 PM

    ESPN is turning into Fox News.

  9. gordyb7 says: May 7, 2012 3:09 PM

    1. Take the helmet players wear today.

    2. Add three inches of some kind of high-tech soft padding around the outside.

    Now, absolutely every head-to-head hit has six extra inches of impact-absorbing material that were not there before, absorbing energy instead of the players’ brains.

    problem solved.

  10. mindworm22 says: May 7, 2012 3:39 PM

    Helmets don’t change contrecoup injuries. The brain floats in cerebrospinal fluid. When it’s hit, it hits the front side and then bounces off the back in many cases. No amount of padding can account for a change in direction that sudden.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coup_contrecoup_injury

  11. glennmcahill says: May 7, 2012 3:42 PM

    Just take away helmets completely. If you take them away, defenders will no longer be willing to use their head as a weapon as they will be seriously injured in the process as well. You will see defenders actually learn how to wrap up and tackle which is rare these days.

  12. gdpont says: May 7, 2012 3:43 PM

    It has been long established in the law that a person/business engaging in an activity which involves risk of serious injury no matter what precautions are taken to avoid injuries will be held “strictly liable” for injuries that occur while someone is engaging in that activity. These types of activities are classified as “ultrahazardous” activities. “Strictly liable” means that the injured person does not have to prove that there was negligence by other party. In the case of the NFL, it would mean that players would only have to prove that it is more likely than not that the concussions suffered playing football caused their brain injuries. Because negligence would not be an issue, whether the players knew of the risks and accepted them would be irrelevant. The NFL is doing its darndest to avoid having football classified as ultrahazardous. But, as the research continues into the connection between concussions and permanent brain injury, it appears that we are headed towards a legal determination that head trauma and brain injury are essentially inevitable when playing football by the rules at any level. If football is found to be an “ultrahazardous” activity, you will see football programs at the high school and college levels disappear to avoid liability. Once those are gone, so is the source of players for the NFL. End of story.

  13. jimpt52 says: May 7, 2012 3:53 PM

    we can’t stop concussions no matter what we do short of elimanating the game of football.. it is the human brain and the way it is constructed that needs to be changed. need i say more?

  14. PriorKnowledge says: May 7, 2012 3:58 PM

    Newtonian Physics. The head is moving at 15 MPH. The head stops. Now the brain is still moving at 15 MPH and slams into the stationary inside of the skull. The brain stops. Some damage is caused to the brain by this collision. BUT then the blood inside the brain is still moving at 15 MPH. It vacates one part of the brain and over pressurizes another part of the brain causing some blood vessels to burst while the lack of blood in the other part of the brain also may cause problems. Even if no concussion occurs, some brain damage is caused. Now repeat many times a week over many years.

    How large a helmet is needed where you can decelerate the brain so that little or no damage occurs? I don’t know if 3 inches is enough. And it must be elastic so it does not deform in use.

  15. dal24la says: May 7, 2012 4:09 PM

    mindworm22 says:

    Again, it doesn’t matter what kind of helmet is used. The constant knocking of heads and the cumulative effect that follows is the major issue that the league will have to deal with, not just concussions…..

    Cumulative head trauma and CTE are not going to go away no matter what happens with the helmets.
    —————————————————–
    While this is true getting better helmets would not hurt. I was not born back then but I would bet that in the leather helmet no-face mask days defenders did not do take so many headlaunching tackles because that would hurt their own head. They had to wrap up. A return to leather helmets would likely decrease concussions a good bit.

  16. bearsnoah says: May 7, 2012 4:14 PM

    it’s possible to play football and preserve the integrity of the game and cut out a lot of the head trauma. tackling needs to be emphasized around the waist. helmets will be better and possibly be padded on outside.

  17. hodag54501 says: May 7, 2012 4:15 PM

    I don’t buy the “it’s the end” mentality sweeping the media(example is above post).
    Lawyers tend to make “maximum” observations of things. The truth is somewhere less than the “end of the world” predictions.
    Here are some things that could help.
    1)A weight limit in the NFL. A 300 pound human being is overweight, and thus unhealthy, unless they are nearly 7′ tall. While players did get “dinged’ back in the old days, it wasn’t as severe. In the ’60′s an average NFL lineman was 250 pounds. Henry Jordan made the Hall of Fame in the defensive line at 235 pounds.
    Speed x mass = impact force. Less size, less force.
    The game would get back to “tackling” instead of “hitting”.
    2)Equipment. I don’t think scientific advancements toward safer helmets have been exhausted. How about NFL fans chipping in a dollar extra to go to resarching better safety equipment?

    The current lawsuits filed against the NFL, upon seeing the names, are 5% legit claims and 95% percent ex-players thinking they can get some money.
    I notice many former players doing quite fine, but suddenly they seem to be looking for pity.
    Regarding schools not playing football, it’s possible. But there’s a real financial incentive to continue playing. The football programs at most major colleges carry the athletic department from a financial standpoint. I doubt they will end that.
    What they will do is start outlawing the “WWE” version of blocking and tackling that has been so popular.

  18. dmshunt says: May 7, 2012 4:20 PM

    OTL should be sued for the garbage they are reporting. Those lies they pushed on the wiretapping are criminal.

  19. rajbais says: May 7, 2012 4:34 PM

    Please stop!!! This is a serious issue, but it’s getting beaten to death (for the lack of a better phrase)!!!

  20. beeronthefridge says: May 7, 2012 8:54 PM

    You have to ask, how many more deaths can NFL fans take?

    The bone-shattering truth is that NFL football is no different from Roman Coliseum days.

    It is barbaric. We don’t want this anymore in America.

  21. pturner81 says: May 8, 2012 12:36 AM

    Beeronthefridge I think you misspoke. It’s barbaric so we love it in america I assume is what you meant to say

  22. bassdrone42 says: May 8, 2012 10:31 AM

    The type of helmet worn absolutely matters!

    Unlike the foam in traditional helmets that only compresses to approx 1/2 the original thickness, the shock absorbers used in Xenith helmets compress completely, allowing the skull and brain to slow down over a greater period of time.

    This reduces the impact, and reduces the rebound inside the skull, thereby lowering the risk of concussion.

    Xenith helmets also remain the only helmets that perform equally well with low energy impacts as they do with high energy impacts.

    The science is now showing us that it’s the cumulative effects of the numerous low energy impacts that are the real long term danger in football.

    Improvements to equipment like this, together with improved hitting techniques, and improved rule enforcement will make the game much safer.

  23. robbbattless says: May 9, 2012 2:32 PM

    Has anyone thought about the Impact Indicator tool? This is a chinstrap that indicates when an athlete has crossed a set threshold where head injuries are likey to occur. The indicator is a tool that will not prevent or detect concussions but it will allow an athlete to be removed from the field of play so the team can apply sideline testing. We all know the first hit is not avoidable. However, preventing an injured brain from being hit again will save lives. This tool is that. It provides the eyes on the field to help identify these at risk athletes.

    This was worn in the superbowl!

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