Danny Kanell questions concussion research, says 'War on football is real'

ESPN college football analyst and radio host Danny Kanell, who played quarterback at Florida State and later in the NFL for six seasons, took to Twitter Tuesday morning to refute concerns over concussions and football. The issue has come to the fore in recent years thanks in part to the work of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the first person to diagnose Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or C.T.E.

Kanell was referencing this New York Times op-ed by Omalu, who writes that children shouldn't be allowed to play football because research shows that "it has become clear that repetitive blows to the head in high-impact contact sports ... place athletes at risk of permanent brain damage."

This is also worth pointing out:

Kanell's response to this fact is ... peculiar.

Kanell doesn't refute Omalu's contributions to concussion research, but he seems to acknowledge that if you agree with it then football will cease to exist, presumably at some point in the very near future, and those of us who cover football will be out of work.

Farrar, perhaps realizing that he won't change Kanell's mind, at least on Twitter, opts for comedy instead.

Kanell's overall point seems to be that "most people would be surprised to learn that MOST NFL retired players live completely normal, full lives." He then referenced a study from FiveThirtyEight.

In the link, FiveThirtyEight cited a study that found there was no evidence that suicide was more common among professional football players, but the FiveThirtyEight story also included this passage:

The possibility of general long-term neurological problems (caused by repeated mild traumatic brain injury) is reinforced by the observation that, in a cohort of 3,300 retired professional football players, death from neurological causes (including ALS and Alzheimer’s disease) is substantially elevated.

There is also some direct evidence — again, from studies of professional players — linking recurrent concussions to depression. One study of retired professional football players showed that those with three or more lifetime concussions had three times the risk of depression relative to those with no concussions. Depression is a well-known risk factor for suicide; however, the facts here do not directly link concussions and suicide.

Not surprisingly, Farrar, who covers the NFL for SI.com, wasn't the only person who took issue with Kanell's tweets.

There are plenty of reasons to criticize the NFL, whether it's how the league deals with domestic-violence issues or the weekly on-field problems with officiating. But you can't deny that the league has made a concerted effort to make the game safer. And to confuse safety with war is a stretch by just about any measure.

Danny Kanell thinks there is a 'war on football.' (ESPN.com)
Danny Kanell thinks there is a 'war on football.'. (ESPN.com)
CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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