Report: NFL used flawed data, left out at least 100 concussions in studies

On Thursday the New York Times released a bombshell of a report on the NFL's research into concussions, claiming the data the league used is "incomplete," "flawed" and "faulty." These assertions are made largely in part because of missing information from the concussion research the league began in 1994.

Here are four key points taken from a lengthy investigative report:

Incomplete concussion data: According to data obtained by the Times, the NFL's research was missing significant chunks of information. Specifically, there were more than 100 concussions missing from the data and more than 10 percent of the total diagnosed cases.

How could this possibly happen? 

The NFL told the Times its “clubs were not required to submit their data and not every club did.”

This contradicts a "peer-review document" from the committee:

And in confidential peer-review documents, the committee wrote that “all N.F.L. teams participated” and that “all players were therefore part of this study.”

Notable names missing: The most concerning point of data from the Times study is the obvious absence from the NFL of concussions to star players. Not because famous players matter more, of course, but because just about everyone knows players like Troy Aikman and Steve Young suffered concussions.

Troy Aikman's concussions were not included in the NFL research according to the Times(Getty)

Wayne Chrebet has been openly discussing his own concussion issues for several years now. The Times reports two concussions sustained by Chrebet, then with the Jets, were not recorded, despite the Jets' team physician being prominently involved in the research.

Over all, at least 10 percent of head injuries diagnosed by team doctors were missing from the study, including two sustained by Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet, who retired several years later after more concussions. Dr. Pellman, the Jets’ physician, led the research and was the lead author on every paper.

Additionally, the Cowboys reported zero concussions over a six-year period.

The database does not include any concussions involving the Dallas Cowboys for all six seasons, including four to Mr. Aikman that were listed on the N.F.L.’s official midweek injury reports or were widely reported in the news media. He and many other players were therefore not included when the committee analyzed the frequency and lasting effects of multiple concussions.

A Cowboys spokesperson told the Times the Cowboys participated in the study.

Additionally, "several other teams have no concussions listed for years at a time."

The 49ers weren't listed in the data according to the Times despite Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young retiring because of concussions in 2000.

The 49ers have no concussions listed from 1997 through 2000. However, numerous media reports and the N.F.L.’s own injury reports indicate quarterback Steve Young had at least two.

Not questioning the data?: Why would the people involved here -- presumably intelligent people -- not double- and triple-check the data?

One of the members of the concussion committee, Dr. Joseph Waeckerle put it pretty well in a comment to the Times

“If somebody made a human error or somebody assumed the data was absolutely correct and didn’t question it, well, we screwed up. If we found it wasn’t accurate and still used it, that’s not a screw-up; that’s a lie.”

Big Tobacco connection: The Times makes a very bold claim in the story, likening the NFL to Big Tobacco. The league, in a comment about the inquiry, did not appreciate the comparison.

In a letter to The Times, a lawyer for the league said, “The N.F.L. is not the tobacco industry; it had no connection to the tobacco industry,” which he called “perhaps the most odious industry in American history.”

However, the Times still made the connection, claiming "records show" the two groups shared attorneys and lobbyists:

"Still, the records show that the two businesses shared lobbyists, lawyers and consultants. Personal correspondence underscored their friendships, including dinner invitations and a request for lobbying advice."

The Times points out a letter from NFL executive Joe Browne to the Tobacco Institute in 1982 where he "sought lobbying advice."

“I would like to take the opportunity to sit down and discuss this bill with you further,” Mr. Browne said in a 1982 letter to the institute’s president, Sam Chilcote.

Read the full New York Times story here.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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