The New York Times during the past week has done a series of stories about the parties leading the fight to win compensation for retired National Football League players who have contracted early dementia.
In a story in the Sunday Times, headlined “In the Fight to Address Head Trauma, Women Lead the Way,” sports writer Alan Schwartz continued his in-depth coverage of the issue with a lengthy profile of the women who have taken up the cause. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/sports/football/11women.html?ref=sports
He starts out writing about Eleanor Perfetto, who has brought a workman’s compensation claim on behalf of her husband, Ralph Wenzel, in California that could set a precedent in terms of the league’s liability. She is seeking compensation for her spouse’s early-onset dementia, which she claims was caused by his injuries during seven seasons as an NFL lineman.
Perfetto has a PhD in public health, and is a senior policy director at Pfizer.
Next on his Schwartz’s list is Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat who — like Perfetto – testified during last fall’s hearings before the House Judiciary Committee on pro football and concussions.
At the hearings Sanchez blasted the NFL’s lenient policies on concussions, which sparked some changes. For the Sunday Times story, Sanchez offered a quote that will ring true for any woman who has ever competed in a male-dominated industry.
“People underestimate you, and it makes you very powerful,” Sanchez told The Times. “The NFL is so male and macho and testosterone-dominated, I don’t think they figured that women were going to be a force to be reckoned with in this thing, and they’re finding out the hard way.”
Perfetto and Sanchez aren’t the only women who have been vocal participants in the football-concussion debate. There is also Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at the Boston University School of Medicine, who has linked brain damage in ex-players to football.
The Times also cites former Tampa Bay Buccaneers president Gay Culverhouse, who blasted the NFL during the congressional hearings and even started a foundation to help out players.
The story also talks about the wife of former NFL tight end John Mackey, Sylvia Mackey. She almost went bankrupt when he came down with early-onset dementia. She went on to convince the NFL and the players’ union to create a plan to assist families like hers.
The final female advocate on behalf of NFL players in The Times story is Kwana Pittman. She is the niece of ex-NFL player Andre Waters, who killed himself in 2006. Pittman got her family to agree to have Waters’ brain matter analyzed. The testing found extensive brain damage, bringing the issue of football and the long-term impact of concussions into the national spotlight.