Paul Tagliabue and Gene Upshaw, 2005 (AP)
The recent PBS Frontline documentary about NFL concussions, League of Denial, has renewed the debate about the NFLPA’s role in the concussion controversy and litigation between the NFL and former players. While representing the league in the April Philadelphia court appearance between NFL and player attorneys, the NFL’s heavyweight Supreme Court lawyer Paul Clement stated that the players union was the party responsible for the treatment of retired NFL players. Also reporting on the hearing, attorney Eric Sable added that:
“And let’s not forget about the NFLPA, who thus far have escaped culpability. When asked multiple times about the NFL’s responsibilities for player safety, Clement strategically put it in the context of a shared role with the players, the NFLPA, and the NFL member clubs. Reading between the lines, if this case gets past the motion to dismiss stage, expect the NFLPA to be impleaded.”
Forensic Pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Brain Injury Research Institute)
The long-awaited film “League of Denial” airs on PBS Tuesday night. The documentary about concussions and CTE in the NFL was produced by PBS Frontline and has been promoted heavily on ESPN’s Outside the Lines with Bob Ley. ESPN created additional buzz for the film with the strange announcement that they were removing their name from the project. Some say that was influenced by the NFL, but regardless, the move seemed to generate even more hype for the film.
Dr. Teena Shetty, NY Giants Unafilliated Neurological Consultant (Crains New York)
One of the improvements the NFL rolled out for the 2013-14 season was adding a neurological consultant to each sideline during games. Although there has been little information throughout the brief season about how the consultants are improving the diagnosis and care of head injuries, some details are making their way out. The NFL is referring to these consultants as Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultants, or UNTCs.
Orioles trainers & manager leave after failing to diagnose concussion on Alexi Casilla
One of the best things to come out of the 2 years of NFL concussion litigation is the increased awareness about sports concussions, symptoms, neurological science and concussion treatment. For everyone but apparently some team medical staffs and coaches. Some of them clearly still do not have a clue. Second baseman Alexi Casillas of the Baltimore Orioles suffered an obvious concussion during the 7th inning of Monday night’s baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Well, obvious to everyone except the Orioles medical staff and manager Buck Showalter. Casilla did not seem to be unconscious that long before the trainers were able to evaluate him on the field, not diagnose a concussion and dangerously allow him to continue playing. Not surprisingly, after the close game was over, Casillas was rushed to a Tampa area hospital because of concussion symptoms.
Roger Goodell and Demaurice Smith with CBA, 2011 (AP)
According to a recent piece, critical of the NFL concussion settlement, journalist Patrick Hruby discovered that the 2011 CBA already makes a substantial amount of healthcare money available to retired players each year at the discretion of the NFLPA. Under the language in the CBA, up-to $22 million of already funded money could be directed to former players with neurological issues. Instead of as a replacement (as long as litigation continued) for the settlement money as Hruby suggests, the funds could be used as an excellent supplement to the current settlement, immediately available for suffering players while the pending details, approval and administration of the settlement terms are ironed out.
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The NFL concussion settlement has been criticized harshly by many members of the media, particularly in that it allows the NFL to maintain its secrecy about its scientific panels and also the perceived low total dollar amount of the available compensation. While the media is disappointed, it remains to be seen what the reaction is from the more than 4,400 former player plaintiffs. A perspective of the settlement that can only be realized in the future is that much of the compensation actually sits there as a type of health or life insurance against severe cognitive illness.
Giants DBs Prince Amukamara and Ryan Mundy get checked out (NBC)
Well, if you’re counting on football announcer Cris Collinsworth to communicate a heightened awareness of concussions you can forget it. After Sunday night’s scary helmet to helmet collision between Giants defensive backs Prince Amukamara and Ryan Mundy, Collinsworth unleashed a couple of beauties. As the first slo-mo replay was shown, Collinsworth advised that “you’re never going to be able to legislate this type of collision out of the game.” Okay Cris – nobody’s ever tried to take tackling out of the game. Then, after Amukamara had remained on the field for 10 minutes while being examined by medical staff, Collinsworth concluded that the injured players would have to “sit out at least one play.” No mention of a concussion test, or of the well-publicized “unaffiliated neurological consultants” that would be on the sideline for every 2013-14 game. Just that these two guys who surprisingly remained conscious would have to miss at least one play per the rules. Once they headed off of the field, NBC didn’t show either player on the sideline or head off to the locker room with a doc. On the other hand, a few plays later, after Tony Romo took a big shot to the ribs, the game switched into full-time “Tony Romo Rib Report” with numerous sideline shots, Collinsworth chatter, updates and shots of his concerned wife checking him out with binoculars.