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New York Times Claims NFL’s Concussion Research Was “Far More Flawed” Than Previously Thought

We have long known that any impact to the skull including concussive impacts can potentially impact the brain. In some cases, the effects of the concussion or another impact of the skull are immediate and apparent. This immediate and potentially severe effects of a traumatic brain injury are most noticeable in terms of the individual’s behavior, impulse control, speech, and executive functioning. However even when a concussion is not significant enough to produce immediate effects, the aggregation of small impacts over time can lead to the development of potentially debilitating brain diseases such as CTE.

What has long been hotly debated is the extent of the effects that smaller blows to the head have. Some scientists have long warned about the cumulative impacts of sub-concussive blows to the head. However, other doctors have minimized the risk of both concussive and sub-concussive impact to the skull in terms of one’s long-term risk of developing degenerative brain diseases.

In the 1990s, the NFL faced its first concussion crisis. Questions about safety and the impacts of concussions on the on the brain first arose around 1994 when several of the NFL’s top players decided that early retirement was in their best health interests. At the time, the NFL formed a concussion committee to determine the risk that concussions presented towards a player’s long-term health. The NFL has continued to stand by this research, but a new inquiry into the matter by the New York Times appears to call into question the validity of this research.


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What Problems Does the New York Times Claim Exist with the NFL’s 1990s Concussion Studies?

The New York Times claims that has obtained confidential data that shows that more than 100 diagnosed concussions were not included in the study. The Times states that the NFL had previously claimed that the studies were based on a full and comprehensive accounting of all concussions identified and diagnosed by teams from 1996 through 2001. The missing data includes severe TBI injuries to certain star quarterback such as Steve Young and Troy Aikman. The New York Times claims that the missing data resulted in concussion rates that were understated by approximately 10 percent.

While the New York Times claims that studies were originally presented as comprehensive, the NFL disputes this characterization and claims that the studies were never reported to include all concussions. Information uncovered by the  New York Times shows that reporting by teams and their doctors was not mandatory and that several teams did not report all concussions or any concussions. Furthermore, the NFL has stated that not all concussions were diagnosed because of different medical criteria in use at the time, the fact that players may have hid these injuries, and the fact that the symptoms of concussions can be relatively brief resulting in a failure to notice the condition. However, The Times states that many of the concussions not included in the study were included in public injury reports and other reports of concussions reported to the media but did not appear in injury reports

What Are the Implications for TBI Injuries?

While it’s too early to draw comprehensive conclusions regarding potential  consequences and veracity of the information under uncovered by the New York Times, the NFL’s claim that the studies we reviewed and vetted through a rigorous and confidential pure review process are certainly under fire. Furthermore, since the studies were published in 13 peer-reviewed articles, the potential mistakes in these articles may ripple through academia. It is unclear whether these studies were cited in future research or the influence on conclusions in other studies these allegedly flawed results may have had. Furthermore, whether the allegedly flawed NFL-linked studies may have been relied on to minimize the likelihood of long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries in other legal actions is also unclear.

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What is clear is that this information means that it likely behooves medical researchers to reassess earlier work that may have been premised on or influenced by these earlier studies. While the studies have previously been defended by members who oversaw the or participated in them, it may be time to reassess this support.

Have You Suffered a TBI Injury?

If you have suffered a severe brain injury in a car accident or due to other negligent acts by another, emerging research suggests that the effects may be long-lasting or even life-long. Waiting to see if the condition will improve may not only be ineffective but also may impact your ability to bring a claim against the responsible party.  To speak to the aggressive and strategic personal injury lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm call (215) 709-6940 today or contact us online.


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