The National Football League has been trying to show the public and Washington that it is taking brain injury seriously, rather than denying any responsibility or liability for ex-players who end up having some form of dementia later in their lives.
After trying to rehabilitate its image, the league then made a big blunder. In this case, the NFL is being taken to task for releasing data on tests conducted on the safety of helmets, data that has been roundly criticized as deeply flawed. The New York Times wrote about the situation on Sunday, in a story headlined “Releasing Disputed Data on Helmets Put the Heat on NFL.”
Last Friday the league and the players’ union sent a memo to officials, players and the media that said that three of the 16 helmet models tested had done the best, in terms of protecting players. Two of the three that performed well were made by the official NFL licensee, Riddell, and the third was done by Schutt.
The problem is that just a few months ago the NFL’s helmet testing was blasted by a congressman as inaccurate and infected — and NFL officials agreed with him. The ongoing flap over the NFL’s seeming indifference to player brain injury ultimately led to the resignations of the heads of the league’s brain injury research committee.
The new leaders of that committee, Dr. Hunt Batjer and Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, at a hearing in March said they would essentially throw out the work of the men they had succeeded. That was supposed to have included the helmet testing results.
Instead, six pages of test results were released last week. They were carefully worded, according to Times reporter Alan Schwartz, to explain that the results “could not be extrapolated to collegiate, high school or youth football.”
One flaw of the helmet tests, according to The Times, is that they only simulated “the highest 1 percent of forces to cause concussions.”
The NFL didn’t make any friends in Congress releasing the helmet test results. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., immediately wrote a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Weiner had grilled Batjer and Ellenboger in a recent hearing in Manhattan that touched on the testing , whose methodology has been criticized.
According to The Times, Weiner wrote, “Yesterday’s announcement of the results of the NFL helmet testing study is a disturbing step backward.”
Not exactly what you want to have a congressman telling you.