“PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYERS DO NOT SUSTAIN FREQUENT REPETITIVE BLOWS TO THE BRAIN ON A REGULAR BASIS.”
So concluded the National Football League in a December 2005 scientific paper on concussions in America’s most popular sport. That judgment, implausible even to a casual fan, also contradicted the opinion of a growing cadre of neuroscientists who worked in vain to convince the NFL that it was facing a deadly new scourge: A chronic brain disease that was driving an alarming number of players including some of the all-time greats to madness.
League of Denial reveals how the NFL, over a period of nearly two decades, sought to cover up and deny mounting evidence of the connection between football and brain damage.
Comprehensively, and for the first time, award-winning ESPN investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru tell the story of a public health crisis that emerged from the playing fields of our 21st century pastime. Everyone knew that football is violent and dangerous. But what the players who built the NFL into a $10 billion industry didn’t know – and what the league sought to shield from them – is that no amount of padding could protect the human brain from the force generated by modern football; that the very essence of the game could be exposing these players to brain damage.
In a fast-paced narrative that moves between the NFL trenches, America’s research labs and the boardrooms where the NFL went to war against science, League of Denial examines how the league used its power and resources to attack independent scientists and elevate its own flawed research a campaign with echoes of Big Tobacco’s fight to deny the connection between smoking and lung cancer. It chronicles the tragic fates of players like Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, who was so disturbed at the time of his death he fantasized about shooting NFL executives; and former Chargers great Junior Seau, whose diseased brain became the target of an unseemly scientific battle between researchers and the NFL. Based on exclusive interviews, previously undisclosed documents and private emails, this is the story of what the NFL knew and when it knew it – questions at the heart of crisis that threatens football, from the highest levels all the way down to Pop Warner.
About the Author
Mark Fainaru-Wada is an investigative reporter for ESPN. With his colleague Lance Williams, he co-authored the New York Times best-seller "Game of Shadows Barry Bonds, BALCO and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports." He lives in Petaluma, California, with his wife Nicole, son Max and daughter Ella.
Steve Fainaru is an investigative reporter for ESPN. While covering the Iraq war for the Washington Post, he received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his investigation into the U.S. military’s reliance on private security contractors. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife Maureen Fan, and son Will.
Table of Contents
Authors' Note ix
Principal Characters xi
Prologue: Bird Brains 1
Part 1 Discovery
1 The Nutcracker 13
2 Psych 101 31
3 "Dad Is in Ohio" 47
4 Fuck You, Jerry Maguire 63
5 The Mike Webster Health Care System 83
6 The Vanilla Guy 106
Part 2 Denial
7 Galen of Pergamon 125
8 Onyemalukwube 148
9 The Dissenters 166
10 "The Lady Doth Protest Too Much" 188
11 A Man of Science 207
12 The Brain Hunters 229
Part 3 Reckoning
13 The Art of Disease 249
14 Big Football 266
15 "Please, See That My Brain Is Given to the NFL's Brain Bank" 286
16 Concussion, Inc. 306
17 Buzzards 324
Epilogue: Scars of the Gladiators 341
Source Notes 367
Photo Insert Credits 397
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth, is one of the best books I have read. Authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru did an excellent job of researching and going in depth in the NFL’s concussion history. League of Denial bounces around from person to person starting out with Hall of Famer Mike Webster, and going to Junior Seau’s death. Each story went in depth with the constant brutality each player went through from a day to day basis. Throughout the book I learned a lot about how the NFL in earlier years did not take any precautions to concussions and did not believe any of the neuropsychologists that concussions were potentially a bigger deal than what people first believed. I was amazed how some of the players mentioned in the book would continue to take hit after hit to the head and still get back up to play another down. For example Merril Hoge took on some of the biggest linebackers in the league being concussed game after game and continuing to go back onto the field to play again. I enjoyed reading the book League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth. I obtained a lot of information on concussions and even learned about many Hall of Fame careers I knew nothing about before reading the book. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who likes the sport of football. I am not a big reader but I was hooked on the book from the beginning.
this was gift for my husband who is reading passages to me as he devours this intriguing investigation into the darker aspects of football.
Very interesting account of football and brain injury. Has changed the way I view football.
Great. If you want the real deal a must read
this well researched and documented account of how the NFL misled players and the public will forever change how I shaggy football.
Excellent book. Couldn't put it down