Opposition from Top NFL leaders
Tony Yates, a physician for the Steelers, said he was powerless to take any highly motivated player out of any game, even after serious potential injuries, according to "League of Denial."
In February 1995, the NFL finally addressed the issue, holding the first meeting of its newly-created Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee.
Chosen by NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, MTBI committee members were almost all NFL insiders. Nearly half were team doctors, who had been sending injured players back onto the field for years.
Elliot Pellman, the new committee's chair, was touted as one of the nation's top concussion researchers, even though he had never published one academic article on the subject.
Pellman, who served as Tagliabue's personal physician, lied about his own credentials, claiming he earned a medical degree at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and was a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Pellman attended medical school in Guadalajara, Mexico and never taught one course at Albert Einstein.
"Before the MTBI committee had published a word of scientific research," the authors write, "it had staked out a position as a defender of the NFL."
Pellman had allowed Chrebet to reenter a close game the Jets were playing against the Giants, after Chrebet had been unconscious on the sidelines for several minutes.
"'This is very important for your career,' Pellman reportedly said before sending him back in. Cherbet was never the same and retired in 2005," the authors write.
"League of Denial" also raises important -- and largely unanswered -- questions about the supposed positive impact of technological improvements in uniforms and helmets.
"Each technological advance came with a corollary: more destruction. One man's protection was another man's weapon. The face mask is but one example."
Plastic helmets significantly reduced "catastrophic head injuries such as skull fractures and hemorrhages, but the flip side was that the human head suddenly turned into a projectile."
Omalu was one of the "Dissenters" in the medical community, who challenged the inaction of NFL leaders, a group that also included Bob Cantu, Kevin Guskiewicz and Julian Bales, a former doctor for the Steelers.
Bailes, also former chairman of West Virginia University's Neurosurgery Department, was a founding member of the Brain Injury Research Institute in 2002. Iron Mike's son Garrett was an administrator.
"League of Denial" praises the Dissenters for their success "in toppling the NFL's established order. It was an astonishing achievement."
During autopsies, the brains of almost all retired players "looked normal from the outside. This wasn't a disease caused by a single blow or even a few. The brain was deteriorating from the inside as a result of repetitive, consistent pounding."
Other new books also explore this topic.
Kelly J. Roush, a chiropractic sports physician, published "Sports Concussion and Neck Trauma: Preventing Injury for Future Generations" in 2012.
"Statistics reveal that over 300,000 sports-related concussions occur annually, Roush writes. "One out of five high school American football players suffers a concussion annually.
"The risk of sustaining a concussion in football is four to six times greater for a player who has sustained a previous concussion."
Earlier this year, Sandra Merriweather, published "A Football Wife's Research Study for the Love of the Games."
"Sport-related concussions have become an emergent problem within the collegiate and professional sports arenas," including football, hockey, soccer, boxing and basketball.
"Children, as well as adults, need solutions to this growing problem and the potential long-term effects," writes Merriweather, whose husband Michael is a retired Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker.
I must admit I enjoy watching college and professional football games.
But the central questions raised by "League of Denial" are deeply disturbing.
"With so many alternatives, how can we let our children, our loved ones, ourselves, play a game that may destroy the essence of who we are? How can we enjoy it as entertainment?" the authors ask.
"We love football. Americans by the millions are complicit in making the sport what it has become, for better or worse."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.