The approach of our government to the concussion crisis reminds me of the “fix” of the radio payola scandals in the 1950s. Back then we made sure to criminalize the acts of disc jockeys in accepting bribes for giving particular songs more airplay. Decades later, television producers would barter entire blocks of commercial time to station licensees and exploit numerous other loopholes in newly loosened Federal Communications Commission rules. But payola at that level, owner to owner, was perfectly legal. It was just business.
Yesterday the Senate Commerce Committee conducted a hearing devoted to bashing “sports equipment manufacturers [which] are exploiting our growing concerns about sports concussions to market so-called ‘anti-concussion’ products to athletes and their parents.”
This quote, from the press release by Senator Tom Udall, was dutifully reproduced in the standard media coverage. In the previous post I offered a taste of some of the additional questions journalists might be asking, if they will go to the trouble of actually watching the hearing and thinking about whom it was protecting, as well as what it professed to be advocating.
Though my bête noire has been Dr. Joseph Maroon, the most amazing one-man medical conglomerate since Dr. Welbeck of Paddy Chayefsky’s The Hospital, the issue is not Maroon himself. Rather, it is his and his University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s National Football League-patronized team of developers of the hyped ImPACT “concussion management system.” There is growing evidence that ImPACT is expensive and unreliable, and – to get straight to the prompt of Udall’s hearing – preys on the fears of parents, as well as the liability jitters of educators, while providing a false sense of security.
Unfortunately, Udall seems intent on getting to the nitty-gritty later rather than sooner.