Archive for May 17th, 2011

Football Helmet Safety Generals Are Fighting Last War – While the Current One Kills and Stupefies Youth Athletes

The lobbying money is pouring in as the lines get drawn around the Children’s Sports Athletic Equipment Safety Act introduced by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico and Congressman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey. The Associated Press story is at

Far be it from me to defend the helmet industry, but someone needs to tell the federal government that its helmet-safety crusade is a gigantic misfire in the overall national sports concussion crisis.

When Senator Harry Truman investigated shoddy military parts by World War II profiteers, it helped catapult him to the vice presidency. But back then the underlying endeavor was one of national purpose and consensus. The truly frightening thing about sports concussions, especially in football, is the range and importance of the punches pulled by our political leaders in service of an entertainment activity that is not a war, except by metaphor, and is endangering youth physical and mental health, warping education, and decimating American productivity by, quite literally, draining our brains.

In this equation, exposing whatever shortcuts helmet manufacturers or budget-restricted families and amateur athletic programs might have taken ranks far down the list of national priorities.

The problem starts at the top, with the National Football League and its bought-and-paid-for doctors and researchers, who have sold the media, the public, and now Congress on the illusion of a better mousetrap. The scandal resides much deeper, in places where polite conversation refuses to go – such as to how Riddell helmets got hyped and legitimated in the first place by the NFL and its brain-injury guru Dr. Joseph Maroon (also the “medical director” of World Wrestling Entertainment), and how Maroon and his cronies have used the same pseudo-academic channels to plug their now-discredited for-profit ImPACT concussion system rather than publish the full truth about the chronic traumatic encephalopathy pandemic in this country.

More about Maroon from here shortly.

Irv Muchnick

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May 2011