Frontline: Season 31, Episode 17

League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis (8 Oct. 2013)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary
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Investigate the health crisis that threatens NFL players and the long-term fortunes of football.


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Title: League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis (08 Oct 2013)

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Episode credited cast:
George Atkinson ...
Himself - Oakland Raiders, 1968-77
Julian Bailes ...
Himself - Team physician, Steelers, 1988-97 (as Julian Bailes MD)
Robert Cantu ...
Himself - Neurosurgeon, Boston University (as Robert Cantu MD)
Himself - Author, Captain For Life
Ira Casson ...
Himself - Co-Chair, MTBI Committee, 2007-09 (archive footage) (as Ira Casson MD)
Sarah Childress ...
Herself / Reporter
Mickey Collins ...
Himself - Univ. of Pittsburgh Medical Ctr. (as Dr. Mickey Collins)
Peter Davies ...
Himself - Neuroscientist, Feinstein Institute (as Peter Davies PhD)
Steve Fainaru ...
Himself / Reporter
Mark Fainaru-Wada ...
Himself / Reporter
Henry Feuer ...
Himself - MTBI Committee, 1994-2010 (as Henry Feuer MD)
Bob Fitzsimmons ...
Himself - Webster's attorney
Jim Gilmore ...
Himself / Reporter
Thomas Girard ...
Himself - Players' attorney
Roger Goodell ...
Himself - NFL Commissioner (archive footage)


Investigate the health crisis that threatens NFL players and the long-term fortunes of football.

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Release Date:

8 October 2013 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
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Did You Know?


Herself - Herself - Neuropathologist, BU CTE Center: I had an 18-year-old at that time. You know that that brain is supposed to be pristine. The fact that it was there, and he was only playing high school level sports, I mean, I think that's a cause for concern.
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References Head Games (2012) See more »

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User Reviews

This is a must watch for any sports fan or parent with children interested in sports
25 October 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I'm not going to lie. When you load up the episode (either on your DVR, OnDemand or on the internet) and you see the length at 1 hr and 53 min, it is hard to visualize yourself watching this to the end. And even more, the first segment which covers the late Steeler great Mike Webster is very slow to materialize and arrive at anything substantive related to the title of this episode. But, once they start getting into Webster's health issues in the late 90's, along with his subsequent disability claims granted by the NFL, you will find yourself unable to stop watching, and stop shaking your head at how bad of a situation exists with the NFL, and just sports in general.

I once was a huge fan of the NFL over 10 years ago, dancing at Eagles touchdowns, making or breaking my week based off the Eagles' performance that past Sunday (or Monday), but I have since become rather disconnected from the NFL. My decline is certainly associated with the Eagles' decline after 2010, but more so to do with the strike that almost occurred in 2011, realizing that this is a game of millionaires versus billionaires not caring about the interests of the people who watch their sport. The NFL's non-profit status certain doesn't help matters, either. I mention all this because prior to watching this episode of Frontline, I still had a sliver of interest in the NFL - mostly because I am a native Philadelphian and Philadelphia is a sports town where you are pretty much out of the loop if you don't follow sports (compare this to DC where the Redskins take second fiddle to politics). But now? After watching this episode of Frontline, I have no interest in the NFL. I don't cheer, I don't watch, I don't follow.

As if you needed any more proof that the National Football League is just another scummy big business that doesn't care about the livelihoods of the people who work for them (which in the NFL's case is a bit more meaningful than just a standard big business bank or phone company or the sort, since directly putting your life at risk is part of the NFL job description), this documentary really exposes the true nature of football and how dirty the NFL is.

The documentary explores how football appears to be a cause of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which causes the victims to lose normal function of their brain, directly causing death by one means or another. CTE is nothing new to the medical practice but, what the physicians were finding, however, was the cases were quite unusual with what they are accustomed to seeing. As someone who has watched the NFL, I was inclined to write this off as "oh these guys were just susceptible to concussions, they had a lot of them, and therefore they got CTE. Thus players who don't get concussions won't get this". But Frontline uncovers how inaccurate this statement is. To top it off, which is the real meat of this documentary, the NFL has repeatedly refused to acknowledge the neurological risks of playing football. I won't go into details here, since I wouldn't be doing the documentary justice, but it is pretty bad, especially when you consider the quiet $760+ million settlement the NFL recently had regarding this issue. People are quick to reply that "oh players know what they are getting into when they play this game, which is why they are paid so much". Unfortunately, after you watching this documentary you will realize that these players really don't, both as a result of the ground-breaking medical discoveries about CTE discussed in the documentary, discoveries which still require a LOT more research, and because of the NFL's absolute refusal to acknowledge the risks outside of the obvious physical risks (bones, muscles, etc.).

After watching this documentary, not only will you have a different perspective on watching the NFL, but you will have an entirely different perspective on sports as a whole. Yes, football is a sport that, by far, presents the highest risk of injury to its players (second I guess would be hockey, as it is full contact, but a distant second since the game is far removed from the days of the Broad Street Bullies), but given the nature of sports and what is presented by Frontline, you can't help but wonder whether any sport as a whole is worth the risk. The human body, and more importantly, the human brain, was not designed for this kind of punishment.

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