Tonight on Frontline — League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis

The long anticipated Frontline documentary “League of Denial” will be shown on PBS tonight from 9-11PM. A book with the same title by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru was released this morning. I hope you’ll watch it either on TV or on-line. The show examines the problems of concussions and traumatic brain injury (TBI) in professional football.

The NFL is not at all happy about the program. In fact, as I reported recently, ESPN was originally a partner with Frontline on the documentary; but after the trailer (produced and edited by my talented brother, John MacGibbon) was released, ESPN abruptly pulled out of the projectmost likely because of pressure from the League.

You can watch the trailer here.

There is lots of coverage of relevant topics at the Frontline site. Here’s a recent story on the doctor who made the connection between football and TBI: The Autopsy That Changed Football

Growing up in Nigeria, Dr. Bennet Omalu knew next to nothing about American football. He didn’t watch the games, he didn’t know the teams, and he certainly didn’t know the name Mike Webster.

That changed in 2002 when Omalu was assigned to perform an autopsy on the legendary Steelers center. Webster had died at 50, but to Omalu, he looked far older. Football had taken a punishing toll on his body. It was Omalu’s job to measure the damage.

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.”

Omalu published his findings, believing NFL officials would want to know more. They didn’t. In public, league doctors assailed his research. Omalu’s conclusions confused the medical literature, they argued. In a rare move, they demanded a retraction.

You can use this as an open thread or a live blog to comment on the documentary. I plan to watch it tonight, and I hope you’ll join me.


Afternoon Open Thread: Steubenville Football Coach Gets Two-Year Contract Extension

Steubenville HS football coach Reno Saccoccia

Steubenville HS football coach Reno Saccoccia

Hey, no big deal right? All he did was cover up a couple of rapes committed by his players… /s

From The Atlantic Wire:

Despite allegations that he knew about a rape and tried to protect his players who committed it, despite widespread criticism that he didn’t punish his team enough and that he should be fired, and despite a grand jury that could charge him looming next week, the powerful Steubenville High football coach Reno Saccocia has been approved for a two-year administrative contract, the city superintendent confirmed to The Atlantic Wire Monday afternoon.

The Ohio Valley’s Herald Star newspaper reported on the Steubenville school board’s minutes over the weekend in an article that included a single phrase about the coach’s new deal:

Two-year administrative contracts for Charles Kokiko, administrator; Bryan Mills, assistant middle school principal; Reno Saccoccia, director of administrative services; Joseph Yanok, middle school principal; Melinda Young, director of programs; and Sara Elliot, school psychologist.

In a phone interview with the Wire, Steubenville schools superintendent Mike McVey described the administrative services position as a “board approved two-year-administrative contract in his current position” that was up for renewal. “Coaching contracts are different from teaching and administrative contracts,” McVey said, stressing that the teaching title was “supplemental” to Saccoccia’s coaching contract.

Nonetheless, the school board’s approval will keep Saccoccia at the school — and it signals a vote of confidence in perhaps the most influential man in the fading steel town that was consumed by the social media response to a case in which two of Saccoccia’s players were convicted in juvenile court of raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl at after parties for a pre-season game by the powerhouse Big Red football team. A grand jury hearing into possible additional charges relating to the parties and their aftermath is now scheduled to convene on April 30.

Why am I not surprised?


Jerry Sandusky Arrested on New Sexual Abuse of Minors Charges

This time, keep him in jail.

MSNBC Reports:

Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky has been arrested at his home in State College, Pa. on new sexual abuse charges. Read the charges here (PDF).

Authorities showed up in four unmarked cars to detain Sandusky, an NBC staffer said. He was out on bail from his initial arrest on almost a month ago on charges of sexual abuse of young boys.

Pennsylvania authorities filed new criminal charges against Sandusky, 67, according to a release from the Attorney General’s criminal investigation bureau.
“Today’s criminal charges were recommended by a statewide investigating grand jury, based on evidence and testimony that was received following the initial arrest of Sandusky on November 5th,” Kelly said.

According to the Washington Post:

Sandusky, 67, was removed from his State College, Pa., home in handcuffs and taken for arraignment to a Centre County courthouse. This arrest stems from allegations from two new victims who stepped forward after his Nov. 5 arrest and these new charges will be included in a preliminary hearing on the original charges that was set for Dec. 13….

The new charges include involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful contact with a minor, indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children, and corruption of minors.

Let’s hope the authorities keep Sandusky locked up this time. He’s obviously a danger to children. Just check this story out from USA Today.

The victims met Sandusky through his charity The Second Mile.

A year and a half after an investigation began into Jerry Sandusky’s contact with young boys, the former Penn State assistant football coach applied for a volunteer coaching job at a central Pennsylvania college but was denied the job after a background check. Last year, Sandusky tried to get a volunteer coaching position at a small Pennsylvania college!

Officials at Juniata College said Wednesday that Sandusky applied for the volunteer football coaching job in May 2010 and rejected the following month after a background check showed a high school where Sandusky previously volunteered was investigating him.

Juniata spokesman John Wall said the college was not informed of the details of the investigation or the existence of a grand jury, but based on the report informed its coaches Sandusky was not to have contact with the program.

This man has been out of control for decades. Many people knew about it, and yet didn’t stop him. Even since he was forced out at Penn State, he apparently continued to try to gain access to children. Fortunately, at least one college did their due diligence are refused to let him work there.

This country needs to get serious about protecting children, and I’m not just talking about more law enforcement. I’m currently working on a post about this important issue, and hope to finish it today or tomorrow.