More Words From a Defender of Alan Schwarz of The New York Times

On May 27, Jean Rickerson posted a comment rebutting my criticism of Alan Schwarz of The New York Times. Today she has a letter to the editor at Beyond Chron in response to my article there (and now on this blog, as well), “How The New York Times Is Fumbling the National Sports Concussion Crisis.”

Rickerson is the founder and editor of a website, SportsConcussions.org. According to the site, it “was created to help educate coaches, parents, and athletes about the dangers of concussions and the importance of proper management. Founder Jean Rickerson’s son sustained a concussion playing high school football in 2008 and as his four-month-long journey to recovery unfolded, she realized how pervasive the lack of education was. Initially intending to educate his football team, as the stories began flowing in, the magnitude of the problem became very evident. The staff at SportsConcussions.org is dedicated to raising awareness about sports-related concussions by providing free training for coaches, speaking to parents and athletes, and arranging community workshops with concussion experts.”

Here’s the full text of Rickerson’s Beyond Chron letter:

Your continual criticism of Alan Schwarz and the New York Times indicates to me that you don’t see the big picture. If one steps away from the oft-cited politics and looks at the positive changes that have filtered down to the youth level as a result of Mr. Schwarz’s work, you might feel differently. No one else has competently challenged the status quo like he has and I know many parents who are grateful for his voice. Concussions are a very complex issue and so are the politics. Perhaps concentrating on results rather than criticizing the messenger would serve your audience better. As for ImPACT, there’s much more to that story as well. Your simplistic approach leaves much to be desired.

Rickerson’s sincerity is not questioned, and her loyalty to Schwarz, who has indeed been instrumental in elevating the concussion debate, is admirable. Her logic here, however, is wanting. By “concentrating on results,” as she puts it, I have questioned, with so far unchallenged legitimacy, The Times’ soft coverage of the commercial and often mendacious historical role of Dr. Joseph Maroon. I also have reproduced a significant chunk of the experts’ current discussions, absent in The Times, about whether Maroon’s ImPACT concussion management software is anywhere near as effective as the general public presumes.

TOMORROW ON THIS BLOG: I ask the sports editor of The New York Times what are the “reasons,” alluded to by Alan Schwarz, that Dr. Maroon has not been subjected to more critical and sharper coverage.

Irv Muchnick

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