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4.7 out of 5 stars
League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth
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87 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2013
I write this review as the first wife of a former professional football player (quarterback).While reading League of Denial, I have cried over the stories from the players and their wives. I lived that life. My husband played serious football through high school, university, and professional ball through the 70's. As far as I know, he had at least 11 concussions during his football career. Some of those concussions put him in the hospital. Then the next day, he was back on the football field. While sitting in the stands with the other football wives I often heard the fans yelling, "Kill the quarterback". A difficult thing to listen to. My former husband has always had sever headaches. Those headaches often caused him to be an absent father to our three sons. To see your husband go from a peaceful loving man to one who at times was controlling, angry, and abusive, was no less than shattering and very confusing. His unpredictable behavior often scared me. League of Denial has helped me realize that my husband's behavior was not always his fault. Now, I understand his odd behavior and it makes sense to me. And, it makes me very sad. How sad that neither one of us knew at that time what was happening to his brain. Football does not only affect the players but it also affects the families who are involved in this game. The denial of the danger of football, by the NFL, is understandable from a monetary perspective. However, it is not an excuse. I dearly hope that the Canadian Football League players take care of themselves. By doing so, they are also taking care of their wives and children. I also dearly hope that the fans will listen to themselves when they yell in dissatisfaction at the players. The fans have no idea how hard the players are working. This is their life and ultimately sometimes their death.
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2013
Kind of unputtdownable. Recently, various sources have shone a flashlight on the problem of head injuries in football. This book directs a 2000 candle power searchlight onto the problem. After reading it, you'll wonder how the NFL is continuing to get away with what could be called murder - certainly a slow destruction of some of their players. What happened in the tobacco industry proves that no one is infallible. I'm hoping that with the information in this book, the genius grant the McArthur Foundation gave to Kevin Guskiewicz, and raised awareness , the NFL will finally be made to answer for the harm they've done and are continuing to do to their players and alums. I don't think I'll ever watch a game again without thinking of this book.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon October 11, 2013
"League of Denial" by ESPN journalists Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru is an interesting and somehow shocking read for NFL fans, about some awful discoveries related to diseases and deaths of ex-NFL players.

The authors revealed how the NFL, for almost twenty years, had tried to cover up and even deny proofs that football players due to the lack of enough protection are far more vulnerable to brain diseases and damages.

Unfortunately, it was proven that the league didn't protected its players enough (or at all), because no matter of advanced technology usage, it wasn't possible to create shields good enough that would adequately protect their heads.

But instead to say it publicly, the whole story was a long time hidden from the media to avoid jeopardizing the entire show, and a large amount of money invested.

I suppose that the authors' intention with their book wasn't to reduce the love of fans for this exciting sport, but to illuminate some secrets that shouldn't be tolerated in any sport.

Due to that, I can recommend reading "League of Denial", a book that shows how today's athletes are real gladiators, not only in a figurative sense, and that the cost of their health and life is almost irrelevant compared to the value of entire show in which they participate.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2013
First, I will note that I myself had a concussion when I was 7 after I fell off my bicycle and fractured my skull. I was "out" for four hours and don't recall anything of the hour before the accident. It is part of the reason that I am very interested in the research.

As an avid NFL fan since the late 70s, I found this book difficult to read. The stories of what many players have had to endure after they retired is heartbreaking. The first time that I recall concussions being discussed in the media were in the time of Al Toon's retirement at the age of 29 after he said he had 9 concussions. I vaguely remember it being said then that there was a belief that having had one made a person predisposed to another and also there was a theory that some players are more prone to them, like Toon.

In reading this book, it carefully lays out what was known about concussions by whom and when. And the startling thing is that a lot of what we take for granted, still wasn't considered hard science even 20 years ago. In 1990, a team doctor wanted to keep Bubby Brister out of a game and the Steelers Coach Chuck Noll wanted to know why and on what basis or evidence. At the time, they were guidelines. But the doctor had no conclusive proof exactly how much time was necessary to heal a concussion. Healing times are different. There was no test, no baseline.

What the book does well is take the reader from that time when things were murky to the death of Mike Webster when there was a change. A Nigerian, Dr. Omalu, made the decision to study the Hall of Famer's brain even though he died of a heart attack due to what the doctor had read about the player's odd behavior over the last few years. After the brain was "fixed", stained and placed the brain tissue under a microscope he saw something that had not been seen before. He saw Tau. Tau, a substance in the brain, was strangling portions of Websters brain. Tau also goes a little crazy in Alzheimer's patients in a different way. The brain damage in boxers is not the same either. It was something new. And it opened up a whole new can of craziness for the NFL.

There is so much in here that is infuriating. The NFL Retirement board paid benefits for brain damage, yet the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee said "football doesn't cause brain damage". There were people who wanted to help find out exactly what was going on and they were discredited or marginalized by the NFL.

I think the book is extremely well written and it lays out all the people who have been involved (including their flaws and all) and just tells the story without really trying to steer a person in a direction. One thing that is interesting is that many of the people involved in identifying the issue love football and they're working to benefit the players they love and respect.

The one thing that I wish were included is more about why the players are not reporting concussions to the team doctors. Of course, part of it is that they're competitive and want to play, but I feel that another part of it has to do with the fact that contracts aren't guaranteed. In baseball, someone like Mike Witt could have a 5 year guaranteed contract and only end up throwing a few innings over those five years. But in football, you can't play, you get cut. Dave Duerson's wife alluded to it briefly.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2013
League of Denial is a devastating expose on the corrupt corporate culture of National Football League brass who, together with complicit medical personnel and scientists, colluded in the medical neglect of their prime commodity - professional football players. The Fainaru brothers are to the pigskin industrial complex what Upton Sinclair was to the early 20th century meatpacking industry.

I cannot say that I will stop watching pro football. Yet, having read League of Denial makes me wonder if I should.

The writing is top-notch. The research is comprehensive. And, the tragic stories of hall-of-fame player Mike Webster, future Hall-of-Famer Junior Seau, and others, are compelling and heartbreaking.

League of Denial blows the lid off the conspiracy to cover up the long-term consequences of concussions in the NFL. The book is must reading for fans, coaches and players at all levels, and parents.

You don't have to be a football fan to appreciate and be moved by League of Denial.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2013
The Brothers Fainaru do a spectacular job of interspersing personal stories with cold hard facts. The way that the NFL has (mis)handled concussions is nothing short of a tragedy, and the Fainarus pull no punches. I nearly came to tears reading about Mike Webster and Dave Duerson. This book must have taken an extraordinary amount of research and I could not put it down. One of the three best football books I've ever read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2013
This gripping effort examines football-related dementia and the lengths the NFL traveled to deny this phenomenon. The author focuses largely on Mike Webster (1952-2002), a hall-of-fame center with the Pittsburgh Steelers and KC Chiefs from 1974-1990. After football, this personable family man descended to irritability, dementia, and early death at age 50. The cause? Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, caused by multiple concussions, countless lesser blows to the helmet, or both (the experts aren't quite sure). Webster's demise was diagnosed via post-mortem examination of his brain. Several other ex-players soon suffered similar fates, including linebacker Junior Seau and defensive backs Andre Waters and Dave Duerson, the latter a sharp and personable ex-Chicago Bear who left a suicide note asking that his brain be examined for CTE. We also learn about pathologists Bennet Omalu and Ann McKee, plus neurologists and other MD's (both good and bad) that sparred, consulted, and competed for status. Not surprisingly, those employed by the NFL acted as skeptics, eerily similar to those scientists for the tobacco industry that once cast doubt on the link between smoking and cancer. Could we expect different from the NFL, a $9 billion industry? Actually, the NFL did change course in Sept. 2013, agreeing to pay a settlement of $765 million (plus legal fees) to 4,500 ex-players. All is here in readable prose that may disturb even the most hardcore gridiron fans.

The authors touch on but don't entirely address some added issues. How have many ex-players apparently avoided CTE while others suffer memory loss, depression, and worse? What about the ex-college players who received no pay (except a scholarship) and are not eligible for workers compensation? Does CTE result from concussions, insufficient recovery time, non-concussive helmet blows, or some combination of all these? Finally, can a safer game hopefully emerge via changes in rules, techniques, and helmet design?
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
If you love the game, this book is a must-read. Only then you'll be able to make a conscious decision about the beloved game. The book is a sincere attempt not to lessen your love for the sport but to find answers and seek accountability for the damages done. It is truly an eye-opening book!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2013
In the most favorable of light, the NFL has been schizophrenic on its position of concussions and head injuries during the past 20 or so years. The parallels to the tobacco case(s) are impossible to ignore. The book's depth of research and insight is fantastic. The league's lack of cooperation with the authors, while not surprising given the cloud of litigation, is unfortunate. What is perhaps most remarkable, is how indifferent its fans have been to this issue. It really goes beyond a league of denial.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2013
This book is remarkably even handed. I think the case it lays out against the NFLs handling of concussions is pretty damning. You may find otherwise after reading the evidence. I admit to being somewhat thankful that I don't have kids after reading this, because I'm not sure I could ever feel comfortable with them participating in football after reading League of Denial. It just doesn't seem like a reasonable risk in the end.
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