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Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Inside Slant: Concussion book takeaways

By Kevin Seifert

So I tweeted Wednesday morning about a completely benign and totally harmless story. You know, the one in which the vice chairman of the Detroit Lions referred to the Chicago Bears as "a bunch of thugs."

Naturally, I received dozens of outraged responses and was copied on a number of harsh exchanges between Lions and Bears fans. So it was with some irony that there was almost no reaction to another story I tweeted out: A new book -- co-written by two ESPN investigative journalists, one a Pulitzer Prize winner. "League of Denial" documents "a campaign to deny a growing body of scientific research that showed a link between playing football and brain damage," according to the ESPN news story.

The one reply came from @Real_Morp: "yes but in reality fans don't care. As long as football is played NFL will have 100% approval rating from fans."

I get it. A level of concussion fatigue has set in among football fans and much of the general public. Last month's $765 million settlement of all concussion litigation ensured that the issue will not bring down the game. As long as football is still being played, the reasoning goes, why does anyone care what happened years ago?

Without going into great detail, I do think there are some critical takeaways from this work and -- just as important -- a continuing discussion about the issue. Here are some big-picture thoughts to keep in mind, at least from my perspective:
Again, I understand concussion story fatigue. But from a human perspective, there is no more important issue in this game. I'll leave you with the way the authors described it: "'[T]he essence of football -- the unavoidable head banging that occurs on every play, like a woodpecker jackhammering at a tree -- can unleash a cascading series of neurological events that in the end strangles your brain, leaving you unrecognizable."

I think that's worth remembering.