Yesterday I asked Chris Nowinski, head of the Sports Legacy Institute, and Dr. Robert Cantu, Nowinski’s co-director at Boston University’s Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy, to comment on the wildly propagandistic statement by Dr. Joseph Maroon that the incidence of kids’ injuries in car accidents is “significantly higher than playing in sports.” (See “Two New Whoppers From the NFL’s and WWE’s Dr. Joseph Maroon,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=4385.)
Nowinski and Cantu have not responded. That is both disappointing and revealing.
Talking about the new collective bargaining agreement between the National Football League and its players, Nowinski has said that it is good if the professional athletes got what they wanted, and now there are additional questions of whether amateur athletes and their families will get what they need in terms of a sports system that protects them from undisclosed risks of permanent and disabling brain trauma. (I am paraphrasing.) There is no problem with Nowinski’s stance, so far as it goes. But it doesn’t go far enough, and he, more than anyone, should know that.
The NFL has given Nowinski’s center a $1 million grant, but with each muted and equivocal public statement by the guiding light of contemporary concussion reform, the tacit strings attached to the league’s discount generosity are showing.
Nowinski realizes — and he used to articulate this powerfully — that the NFL doesn’t merely set the tone for the incentives and style of play in high school and youth football. It also buys and sells them. No example is more stark than the thoroughly tainted Maroon and his ImPACT “concussion management” system.
So when Maroon spews more public nonsense, as he did this week, it is Nowinski’s responsibility — not just his job description — to rebut it.
Nowinski bristles at the charge that NFL money has compromised his mission. He says the steps initiated in recent years by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners have been “game-changers” in the national concussion narrative. Maybe so — but if one of those changes was to squelch the voice of Nowinski and his Boston group, then it was a bad bargain for the rest of us.