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.
The war on football is real. Not sure source but concussion alarmists are loving it. Liberal media loves it. Doesn't matter. It's real.— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) December 8, 2015
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:
Bennet Omalu isn't the "liberal media." He's the doctor who discovered the link between head trauma and CTE. https://t.co/th66efvYGD— Doug Farrar (@SI_DougFarrar) December 8, 2015
Kanell's response to this fact is ... peculiar.
.@SI_DougFarrar oh cool. So u agree with him then. Start writing it. No more football.— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) December 8, 2015
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.
@dannykanell At this point, I'll assume Trump hijacked your account, and you're off fighting a life-and-death battle with squirrels.— Doug Farrar (@SI_DougFarrar) December 8, 2015
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.
Pointing out NFL obscured & denied concussion science to the detriment of players, inconsistent protocol = WAR ON FOOTBALL— Joe Ovies (@joeovies) December 8, 2015
.@dannykanell you are starting to sound like “I didn’t get lung cancer from smoking” guy— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) December 8, 2015
@dannykanell so a person can't say that science says that football is dangerous..and still be ok with saying fball shouldn't be banned?— Nicholas Johnston (@washlaw10) December 8, 2015
@dannykanell are you saying that the NFL shouldn't be concerned about the long term health of it's players? What are you afraid of?— Gustavo (@gustavoelias24) December 8, 2015
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.