Archive for January 13th, 2011

NFL: No Comment on Senator Udall’s Call for FTC Investigation of Riddell Helmet Claims from Dr. Maroon Research

Yesterday I emailed both Dr. Joseph Maroon (National Football League and World Wrestling Entertainment consultant) and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello for comment on Senator Tom Udall’s request to the Federal Trade Commission for a probe of the Riddell company’s promotion of its Revolution football helmet.

Today I followed up with Aiello. In addition to reiterating my question about whether the NFL had ever expressed disapproval to Riddell of the way its NFL Charities-funded research, co-conducted by Dr. Maroon, was being exploited commercially, I asked Aiello if the league had any statement on the Riddell matter.

Aiello emailed back that there would be no response. “You should contact Riddell,” he wrote.

I find extraordinary the NFL’s complete silence on a New York Times front-page story.

On the credit side, the league just launched a new website, http://nflhealthandsafety.com, which is a decent (if guarded) information clearinghouse. The news section even links to the Times article — potentially one of the most important sports industry stories of the year, but one on which the NFL has no comment.

 

Irv Muchnick

Support Wrestler Mick Foley’s Work With ChildFund International in Sierra Leone

I just finished reading the chapter “A Sponsor for Alimany” in Mick Foley’s latest book, Countdown to Lockdown. It is reason enough to take a pause from my advocacy of reform and regulation of the pro wrestling industry.

Though Countdown to Lockdown is not Foley’s best book, I have to say in all candor that he’s probably a more intuitively natural writer than I. He’s an inveterate name-dropper, but what the heck, at least he name-drops down the social ladder as well as up.

As every reader has learned to expect from him, there’s a nonstop barrage of pop-culture references. I mean, I watch the new Hawaii Five-O, and I am smitten by Grace Park as the new-and-improved Kono and everything. But in comparison with Foley, I might as well be the finger-wagging author of The Closing of the American Mind.

So, yes, Foley is charming. Endlessly so, even annoyingly so. The cadence of his punch lines – inevitably a non sequitur or fantasy or falsity at the end of a list of examples – is so predictable and full of neurotic tics that he can come off as the WASP Woody Allen. And by the way, that’s not a compliment from me.

Like a lot of others, I didn’t like it when Foley endorsed Linda McMahon in the Connecticut Senate race last year, in what was obviously either an explicit or a tacit quid pro quo for a plug of his book on World Wrestling Entertainment television (an unprecedented use of WWE air time for talent currently affiliated with an opposition promotion).

But as I said, I just read “A Sponsor for Alimany,” about Foley’s work with ChildFund International, and I’m hooked. Cactus Jack/Mankind/Dude Love may be a world-class crackpot – literally – but what resides in his heart is not fool’s gold. Whatever I think of the model of Foley’s hardcore stuntman wrestling career or the specifics of his politics, he is someone who thinks and feels about the larger world, who believes in the power of his celebrity to improve it, and who acts on those beliefs, daily and concretely. These traits get him “over” with this reader.

In response, I’ve done two things. First, I gave Countdown to Lockdown to my older daughter and asked her to read “A Sponsor for Alimany.” (The book was actually a gift from the mother of my daughter’s best friend: thank you, Angela and Zooey.) Mara is a freshman at Berkeley High School and she is currently doing a unit on West Africa in one of her classes.

Second, I took up Mick Foley’s exhortation on page 191 and contributed to ChildFund International. I’m pretty broke right now and I can’t handle a full ongoing child sponsorship, but I made a one-time donation of $28 (the monthly cost of a sponsorship). I urge everyone reading this to do at least as much. You can call ChildFund International at 800-776-6767 or go to http://childfund.org. Be sure to earmark your funds for the Bombali area of Sierra Leone.

Good game, brother Mick.

Irv Muchnick


Why Didn’t NFL and WWE’s Dr. Maroon Speak Up About the Riddell Helmet Advertising Claims?

It’s all well and good that Dr. Joseph Maroon now agrees with Senator Tom Udall’s call for a Federal Trade Commission investigation of the Riddell manufacturer’s claim of a 31 percent reduction in concussions for its Revolution helmet model.

 

The number came from a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center study conducted by Maroon and published in the journal Neurosurgery. The paper was co-authored by Riddell’s chief engineer and the research was funded by NFL Charities, the philanthrophic arm of the National Football League.

 

The New York Times’ Alan Schwarz, whose investigative article last October on the unreliable work of the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) helped spur Senator Udall’s call to the FTC, reported that Maroon “disagreed with Riddell’s marketing the 31 percent figure without acknowledging its limitations, and supported Udall’s request for a formal scrutiny.”

Maroon told The Times: “That was the data that came out, but the authors of that study on multiple occasions have recommended further investigations, better controls and with larger numbers. If one is going to make statements relative to the paper we wrote, it should be with the limitations that we emphasized, and not extrapolated to studies that we suggest should be done and haven’t been done yet.”

Udall’s letter to the FTC cites a Riddell promotional video on YouTube, “The Pinnacle of Protection and Performance,” hyping the Maroon study. The video was posted last September, a month before Schwarz’s expose of NOCSAE.

But the senator is actually too kind. On the RiddellSports YouTube channel, there is earlier and even more explicit evidence. “Keep Your Head Safe: The Riddell Revolution Football Helmet,” http://www.youtube.com/user/RiddellSports#p/f/10/DJTdrNJG-Dc, posted on July 29, 2008, begins:

“Research published in the February 2006 issue of Neurosurgery reveals that players wearing the Riddell Revolution were 31 percent less likely to suffer a concussion than those wearing traditional football helmets. The study, conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, evaluated  more than 2,000 high school football players over a three-year period, and determined the rate of concussions for players wearing Riddell’s new Revolution helmet versus traditional helmets. The helmet design was based on extensive research funded by NFL Charities.”

I asked The Times’ Schwarz if he had sought elaboration from Dr. Maroon as to where, when, and to whom he had ever objected to Riddell’s advertising claims exploiting his research. Schwarz declined comment.

Neither Maroon nor NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has responded to my email asking for specifics on any dissents to Riddell expressed by either Maroon or NFL Charities.

To reinforce the themes of this blog, the involvement of one of the NFL’s concussion experts in exaggerated claims by Riddell should not be limited to this probe by Senator Udall and the FTC. Joseph Maroon is also the medical director of World Wrestling Entertainment, and the undue influence of industry on his medical and scientific work also has become part of the investigation of pro wrestling’s death pandemic, which must be pursued by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the White House Office of National Drug Policy, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and/or the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

 

Irv Muchnick


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