The NFL Machine

Concussions.  An injury to the brain that had, until recently, typically gone untreated and unreported in more cases than not.  Professional football is ‘America’s pastime,’ ‘America’s game’…. but is football also

CCBY: Jonathan Moreau

the leading cause of degenerative brain disease in more than a few retired NFL players?  The league will do whatever it takes to protect itself, the end justifies the means,

right?  Has the NFL been telling lies or, not telling the whole truth to its players since its inception in 1920?  Really… who knows.  But, there is medical fact existing in this world today that demonstrates a possible link between football and degenerative brain disease.  It exists, it is credible and published but Dr. Ira Cassen co-chair of the NFL’s mild traumatic brain injury committee refuse to see any validity in these research studies.  The families of deceased former NFL players and current players alike want the NFL to pay for their long-term health conditions,

CCBY: Neil Conway

including any incidence of degenerative brain disease.

The information found in the sources below is baffling at some points.  The books, articles and film strongly support the notion that the NFL has known about the possible devastating effects of prolonged engagement in football.  Lives and families were ruined, and this body of research shows more than one example of the long term effects of concussions.



Fainaru-Wada, M., & Public Broadcasting Service (U.S.) (Directors). (2014). Frontline – League of Denial : The NFL’s concussion crisis[Motion picture on Online video]. Kanopy Streaming.


This motion picture field holds a plethora of information about the concussion crisis and CTE and how the NFL covered it up for years and ears.  The neglect shown in this film really shoes how the NFL will do anything to protect the billion-dollar empire, with disregard for medical science fact.  There have been many efforts by current commissioner Roger Goodell to close the gap of neglect, but for some it is just too little too late.  The NFL still denies the link between football and degenerative brain disease, when it is medically clear there is some sort of link.



Fainaru-Wada, M., & Fainaru, S. (2014). League of denial: The NFL, concussions, and the battle for truth. New York: Three Rivers Press.


Along with the film of the same title, this book delves into the “NFL Machine” from the perspective of two sports journalists.  The Fainaru brothers investigate the scandalous concussion crisis and portray the secrets kept by top NFL administrators including the past and present commissioners.  This book truly shows that the NFL will stop at nothing to protect their reputation, but more importantly, their revenue.



Kerr, Z. Y., Register-Mihalik, J. K., Kay, M. C., Defreese, J., Marshall, S. W., & Guskiewicz, K. M. (2017). Concussion Nondisclosure During Professional Career Among a Cohort of Former National Football League Athletes. The American Journal of Sports Medicine,46(1), 22-29. doi:10.1177/0363546517728264


This source provides a look at a large number of retired players failing to disclose concussions during their active careers in the NFL.  In the past, concussion symptoms were typically self-reported, now (although the protocols still aren’t what they should be) athletic trainers, medical staff and independent neurologists recognize and diagnose concussions much more frequently.  Undiagnosed concussions can lead to serious consequences such as permanent brain damage and even death.  This article shows how important athletic trainers and trained medical staff are on the sidelines.  And that isn’t just for football, every contact sport should have athletic trainers at the ready to diagnose concussions and keep athletes save.


Navarro, S. M., Sokunbi, O. F., Haeberle, H. S., Schickendantz, M. S., Mont, M. A., Figler, R. A., & Ramkumar, P. N. (2017). Short-term Outcomes Following Concussion in the NFL: A Study of Player Longevity, Performance, and Financial Loss. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine,5(11), 232596711774084. doi:10.1177/2325967117740847


This journal article provides insight into viable information collected across an 11-year span in the NFL showing the non-health related effects of reporting concussions.  The incidence of reported concussions is staggeringly low compared to the number of players that have moved through the NFL in that 11-year span.  This article tells of reductions in playing time, career length and financial compensation in players that report having a diagnosed concussion.  One would expect initial play time to decrease, but this article is showing a steady decrease in playing time over the years following reporting of a concussion.  This further solidifies the fact that the NFL has been covering up concussions and their long-term effects for years.



Omalu, B. (2008). Play hard die young: Football dementia, depression and death. Lodi, CA: Neo-Forenxis Books.


Dr. Bennet Omalu was the first to discover the possible link between football and degenerative brain disease.  Dr. Omalu was shunned by the NFL after publishing his findings on the condition of former Pittsburg Steelers linebacker Mike Webster.  The NFL’s MTBI (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury) released a statement requesting Dr. Omalu to retract his paper.  They attacked Dr. Omalu’s work and made false statements about his personal life to discredit his research.  This all ties into the title of the film and book “League of Denial,” further proving the clear fact that the big wigs in the NFL would do anything to protect what they’ve build.

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One Reply to “The NFL Machine”

  1. Hi, Madisen, what is the WHO saying about concussions and sports as well as the AMA , for instance? Where the health community and public health stand? What does a safer cultural shift look like and how does an entity like the NFL wrestle with the risk their players face and still remain a great American pastime, if at all? Good start to your sources. I’m hoping you’ll add to this list, particularly if your point is to show that the NFL cares less about relevant research in this area, and more about its reputation and revenue. How does that attitude leave the future of youth sports and why? Catchy title! Good hook.

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