League of denial:The NFL, concussions, and the battle for truth
An explosive and comprehensive account of the link between brain injuries and football—and the NFL’s systematic attempts to deny it
“PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYERS DO NOT SUSTAIN FREQUENT REPETITIVE BLOWS TO THE BRAIN ON A REGULAR BASIS.” So concluded the National Football League in a December 2005 scientific paper on concussions in America’s most popular sport. That judgment, implausible even to a casual fan, also contradicted the opinion of a growing community of neuroscientists who worked in vain to convince the NFL that it was facing a deadly new scourge: A chronic brain disease that was driving an alarming number of players—including some of the all-time greats—to madness.
In League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth (Crown Archetype, October 8, 2013), award-winning ESPN investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru reveal how the NFL, for nearly two decades, engaged in an aggressive campaign to cover up and deny the link between football and brain damage. Comprehensively, and for the first time, they tell the story of a public health crisis that emerged from the playing fields of America’s twenty-first-century pastime. Everyone knows that football is violent and dangerous. But what the players who built the NFL into a $10 billion industry didn’t know—and what the league sought to shield from them—is that no amount of padding could protect the human brain from the force generated by modern football; that the very essence of the game could be exposing these players to brain damage.
In a fast–paced narrative that moves between the NFL trenches, America’s research labs, and the boardrooms where the NFL went to war against science, LEAGUE OF DENIAL examines how the league used its power and resources to attack independent scientists and bury their work, elevating its own flawed research in a campaign with echoes of Big Tobacco’s fight to deny the connection between smoking and lung cancer. It chronicles the tragic fates of players like Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, who was so disturbed at the time of his death he fantasized about shooting NFL executives; and former San Diego Chargers great Junior Seau, whose diseased brain became the target of an unseemly scientific battle between researchers and the NFL.
Based on two years of reporting—including exclusive interviews, previously undisclosed documents, and private e-mails— LEAGUE OF DENIAL is the hard-hitting account of what the NFL knew and when it knew it, a story that brings to light the difficult questions at the heart of the mushrooming public health crisis that threatens football as we know it, from the highest levels all the way down to Pop Warner. After reading this book, you’ll never watch the game the same way again.
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About the Authors:
Mark Fainaru-Wada is an investigative reporter for ESPN. With his colleague Lance Williams, he coauthored the New York Times bestseller Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports. He lives in Petaluma, California, with his wife Nicole, son Max, and daughter Ella.
Steve Fainaru is an investigative reporter for ESPN. While covering the Iraq war for the Washington Post, he received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his investigation into the U.S. military’s reliance on private security contractors. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife Maureen Fan and son Will.
Also available as an ebook and on audio from Random House
Tune in to FRONTLINE’s Highly Anticipated Documentary
“League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis”
Airing Tuesday, October 8, 9–11 p.m., on FRONTLINE (check local PBS listings)
About the documentary:
The National Football League, a multibillion-dollar commercial juggernaut, presides over America’s indisputable national pastime. But the NFL is under assault: thousands of former players and a host of scientists have claimed the league tried to cover up how football inflicted long-term brain injuries on many players. What did the NFL know, and when did it know it? In a special two-hour investigation, FRONTLINE and prize-winning journalists Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru of ESPN reveal the hidden story of the NFL and brain injuries, drawn from their forthcoming book, League of Denial. More info at pbs.org/frontline/league-of-denial.
FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest-running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. The series has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 57 Emmy Awards and 14 Peabody Awards.