(NaturalNews) Love it or hate it, the National Football League is the most successful professional sports franchise in the history of the country, grossing something like $9.5 billion annually. This figure is important, as I'll point out in a moment.
First, a little background. In case you haven't been following the sport lately, there has been a bit of a controversy (to put it mildly) surrounding player concussions and, specifically, what kind of long-term health effects successive concussions can have, if any, over the course of a career.
Some 4,800 former players took the NFL to court, suing over the issue while contending that the league knew for years that successive concussions indeed had long-term health implications but refused to divulge that information to players. The league, of course, denied this, but nevertheless agreed to settle the suit for $765 million (a settlement that has just recently been rejected by a court).
The line of contention made by the players - and which is often seconded by most sportswriters covering the sport from the perspective of the players, not the "greedy, evil" league - is that successive blows to the head a) cause concussions, which in turn b) cause brain damage, which c) causes long-term psychological problems, d) thereby boosting the incidence of suicide among NFL players, which e) is higher (by far) than the national average.
Now, to both football fans and non-fans alike, it seems rather silly that grown men playing an incredibly rough, violent sport (for most of them since their childhood days) would claim: a) that they themselves were unaware that successive concussions and head injuries may, at some future point, produce long-term ill-health affects; and b) that the league itself somehow knew more than they did but just arbitrarily decided to keep that under wraps (knowing how much owners have invested in players).
So what's all this really about?
Remember that $9.5 billion figure I mentioned earlier? If you ask me, money is what is "motivating" this entire sad ordeal. And based on some revealing reporting by Daniel J. Flynn at Breitbart News, you'd be hard-pressed to prove otherwise. In a recent column, he takes head-on the higher-than-the-national-average-suicides "myth" as a "fact" that has been stated without proof, then echoed by the sportswriting cabal:
The pattern generally sees one article attribute the claim that an astronomically high number of NFL players commit suicide to another article, which cites another article, which cites still another article. The end of the chain always references a specific organization, which, when contacted by Breitbart Sports, proved incapable of producing a study to buttress the shocking statistic that NFL retirees kill themselves at six times the national average.
And yet that is the figure being used. Where did it come from?
In 2012, when scientists for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health examined 3,439 NFL retirees - all pension-vested players who played the game when protective equipment was not nearly as good, between 1959 and 1988 - they found 59 percent fewer suicides than the comparable surrounding male population (of non-players).
Where's the 'study'?
And yet, sportswriters continue to discount or ignore that landmark 2012 study and rely instead "on a nonexistent study to convey the idea that the tragic fates of Junior Seau, Jovan Belcher, and Andre Waters remain all-too common among former gridiron stars," Flynn wrote (all of the players mentioned have committed suicide).
The NIOSH's extensive research, which was urged by the NFL Players Association, rarely finds its way into stories written about this issue:
Instead, journalists in the nation's leading publications - Time, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Boston Globe - regurgitate a statistic that NFL retirees kill themselves at six times the national average without citing the study's name, saying who initially published it, or describing the methodology employed to come to this conclusion.
How is that possible? Apparently, as Flynn notes, nobody can really say, because nobody can cite the "study."
In the meantime, the world's most successful sports league has implemented new "concussion protocols" during games, requiring teams to implement them any time a player receives a violent hit to the head and then bench the player for the remainder of the game if sideline personnel believe he may have suffered a concussion.
My bet is, that won't satisfy the wolves at the NFL's door, but it should protect the league from the circling vultures moving forward. Sources: