Irv Muchnick: Harvard Hits NFLPA $100 Million Jackpot

Jan 30, 2013

Posted with the express consent of Irv Muchnick from his blog Concussion Inc.:
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Harvard Hits the Concussion Inc. Jackpot: 10 Years, $100 Million From NFL Players for a Tiny and Misrepresented Study Glossing Over Brain Trauma

Published January 30th, 2013
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Businessman Throwing his Money AroundThe queenpin of Super Bowl hype week will be officially announced tomorrow. The National Football League Players Association, with funding enabled by the recent collective bargaining agreement with the league, is throwing $100 million — a hundred mil! — at Harvard University. The purpose is to study a few guys across time for … God knows what. The outcome, presumably, will be to make us all feel better about the football industry’s top-to-bottom prima facie battering of the American male brain.
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The stenographers of the news media — mesmerized by the Harvard brand, dazzled by the round numbers, and impressed by the activism of one of the nation’s most corrupt unions — will take it all down at the New Orleans press conference and add, “Amen.”
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Unraveling the scientific speciousness, public relations dissembling, and audacious money-changing of this do-nothing project requires an entire series of articles. Let’s get started.
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The study announcement is premised on a big lie, and it goes downhill from there. The lie is that “the NFLPA is alarmed that its members die nearly 20 years earlier on average than other American men.” In fact, life expectancy is not the issue — the preponderance of evidence is that pro football players live more or less as long as the general population. And the NFLPA full well knows it. This is what Hitchcock would call a MacGuffin: a non sequitur plot swerve of no relevance. The scandalous gross national product of football is its robbery of quality of life — plus all the associated and unaccounted-for public health costs. The phenomenon includes a constellation of discrete pathologies, to be sure. But the hub-and-spoke of the whole system is brain trauma.
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This leads to our next point about Harvard’s impending “landmark study”: it is no such thing. Rather, it is a game of running out the clock. The announcement will emphasize how our growing focus on chronic traumatic encephelopathy (CTE) has made the public forget such equally urgent matters as “searing joint pain” and “heart disorders linked to extreme strength training.”
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(There is not a word about Toradol, the addictive drug that has been criminally over-prescribed by NFL doctors so as to mask both orthopedic and neurological injuries.)
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Harvard’s kitchen-sink methodology, with a cohort of 1,000 guinea pigs at exorbitant cost, has the rest of the research community not only steaming with envy but also howling with derision. According to the Boston Globe, a matched control study of the 100 healthiest and 100 sickest participants will be carried out at 26 sites — approximately 8 patients per site. This pencils out to an annual cost-per-patient of nearly $50,000. Maybe lab technicians and tenure-pimping assistant professors will be getting two-way taxi fare every day.
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The NFLPA isn’t stupid. Well, it is stupid in the sense that its definition of members’ best interests is crabbed and thoroughly private-spirited. But DeMaurice Smith, executive director of an empire of collusion, knows where his nest is feathered. If you’re keeping the temperature of the football public, you can tell that there was more real outrage over Robert Griffin III’s knee injury than there was over Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide.
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The Harvard study announcement, however, comes at a moment of hopeful counter-signs. With measured words and good timing, President Obama has finally said out loud a few words that might persuade some of America’s parents to begin the process of commencing to think about the possibility of considering whether they should weigh discouraging their sons from eliminating extracurricular options outside of football. (In response, Alex Boone of the San Francisco 49ers, who must be on everyone’s short list for NFL father of the year, told Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, “If my son wants to play, he can do whatever he wants. He’s his own man.”)
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Also in the last week, the Centers for Disease Control’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health sent letters and fact sheets to all former NFLers who played for at least five years during the period 1959 through 1988. The CDC reported brain and nervous system disorders at three times the rate of the general population. (Lou Gehrig’s Disease and Alzheimer’s were individually four times higher; Parkinson’s was about the same.)
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Who will carry the day? The slick elites at Harvard who just fleeced dumb jocks out of $100 million to build a bridge to nowhere? Or the creaking wheels of government in its role of protecting public health and safety during Obama’s second term?
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Irvin Muchnick is author of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death (2009) and WRESTLING BABYLON: Piledriving Tales of Drugs, Sex, Death, and Scandal (2007). He is a widely published magazine journalist and has appeared on forums as diverse as Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor,” National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air with Terry Gross,” and ESPN’s “Up Close.” Muchnick is lead respondent in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case for freelance writers’ rights, Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick.
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5 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Bob Avellini
    January 31st, 2013 at 6:01 am #

    Bob Avellini

    Could the fact that owner of the Chicago Bears, Michael McCaskey once taught at Harvard, have anything to do with this generous contribution?

    Bob Avellini
    Chicago Bears & New York Jets
    1975 – 1984

  2. David Carter
    January 31st, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    David Carter

    Dave,

    I believe, but cannot verify, this money is coming from the JCF clause of the CBA recently negotiated. According to the provisions of that clause, $55 million dollars (plus a 5% yearly escalation clause) per year is to be divided up in this manner: $22 million to the Union for retired player programs; $11 million for healthcare research; and $22 million for the League Charities.

    I have also heard that the Union is using some of the $22 million to help offset the rise in expenses incurred by the PCF’s programs but again do not have verification of that fact. When asking Nolan Harrison what the money was being used for, his reply was that they have not received such funds as yet and it had been over a year since the signing of the CBA!

    Just my two cents!

    David Carter
    Houston Oilers, New Orleans Saints
    1977 – 1985

  3. Dave Pear
    January 31st, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    Dave Pear

    David -

    Thanks for the insight. Looks like you’re very close on your understanding of the funding situation. We just caught this article from a couple of days ago on CNN:

    NFL Players Association, Harvard planning $100 million player study

    By Stephanie Smith, CNN
    updated 8:48 PM EST, Tue January 29, 2013

    (CNN) — The National Football League Players Association is negotiating a deal with the league to award $100 million to Harvard University over 10 years to study and treat players’ injuries and illnesses, according to a proposal obtained by CNN.

    Read the rest of the article HERE.

    Dave

  4. Joe S.
    February 1st, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Joe Steed

    Irv Muchnick is correct – another study to delay any kind of resolution concerning concussions. Retired players need to demand more accountability instead of a slow-moving “Kabuki” theater.

    I would advise those players who are entering into this Harvard study to have their primary care doctors act as liaisons. They have no idea what will be involved. Pass it around.

    Joe Steed
    Pittsburgh Steelers
    1992 – 1999

  5. David Carter
    February 2nd, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    David Carter

    Hey Dave,

    A sidebar from my previous post: The Union is using the $11 million dollar annual medical research provision from the Joint Contribution Fund from the CBA to fund the Harvard study. Another stall tactic as has been stated before…

    David Carter
    Houston Oilers, New Orleans Saints
    1977 – 1985