FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013
Frontline Investigates the
NFL’s Concussion Crisis
Premieres Tuesday, October 8th 8:00pm on WTVP-HD 47.1.
The National Football League, a multibillion-dollar commercial juggernaut, presides
over America’s indisputable national pastime. But the NFL is under assault: thousands of former
players and a host of scientists have claimed the league has tried to cover up how football
inflicted long-term brain injuries on many players.
What did the NFL know, and when did it know it? What’s the truth about the risks
to players? What can be done?
In a special two-hour investigation,
League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, FRONTLINE and
prize-winning journalists Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru of ESPN reveal the hidden story
of the NFL and brain injuries drawn from their forthcoming book, League of Denial: The NFL,
Concussions and the Battle for Truth (Crown Archetype, October 2013).
Premiering Tuesday, October 8th at 8:00pm on FRONTLINE, League of Denial: The
NFL’s Concussion Crisis investigates how, for years, the league worked to refute
scientific evidence that the violent collisions at the heart of the game are linked to an
alarming incidence of early-onset dementia, brain damage and other devastating consequences,
The investigation draws on more than 200 interviews with scientists, doctors and
former players, including some of the NFL’s all-time greats, as well as previously unpublished
medical records, NFL memorandums and e-mails.
“We all know football is violent and dangerous; that’s not a mystery,” says Steve
Fainaru. “But if it’s shown, or if it’s suggested, that players can come away severely and
prematurely brain-damaged as a result of their careers, that's going to change the way people
look at football completely.”
“In every single play, particularly at the line of scrimmage, guys are running
into each other head to head, and that’s just the nature of the sport,” says Mark Fainaru-Wada.
“And the science is emerging more and more that that’s the very nature of what this issue is
about and why the players are going to develop this problem.”
In hour one of League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis
, Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada chronicle the discovery of a devastating neurological disease
in the brain of the Pittsburgh Steelers legend Mike Webster, chronic traumatic encephalopathy
(CTE), which was likely incurred during Webster’s 17-year NFL career.
As FRONTLINE reports, the response from the NFL to Webster’s diagnosis was swift. The league
demanded a retraction of the scientific paper explaining the diagnosis, insisted there was no
evidence linking football to chronic brain disease, and used its own heavily funded research
arm to try to kill the findings and discredit the researchers behind them.
“For the most part, people didn’t want to believe it’s true,” a former team
physician for the Steelers tells FRONTLINE. “They didn’t want to admit to
themselves or anybody else that our beloved sport, probably our most popular sport, could end
up with brain damage.”
The discovery of CTE in Mike Webster was only the beginning. In hour two,
League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis investigates how the NFL
responded to the growing body of scientific evidence that football was putting the brains of
its players at risk.
But professional, adult athletes aren’t the only ones at risk. As
FRONTLINE reports, scientists are finding evidence of CTE in high school
“One of the biggest problems we had is that as long as the NFL dismissed this and
said it’s not a big deal, … that meant parents were signing up their kids to go play football
believing that there was no risk of problem,” one researcher tells FRONTLINE.
“And you know that wasn’t fair to those kids or those parents, but especially those
The league recently settled a lawsuit by 4,200 former players who claimed football
led to brain damage—avoiding both any admission of guilt, and the scrutiny of a public trial.
But questions about the link between football and brain damage (and what the NFL knew, when)
aren’t going away any time soon—and may threaten the very future of the game.
“If we believe that the violence that is inherent in football is setting off a
sort of cascading neurological effect in your brain that may leave you prematurely brain-damaged,
completely change you as a human being and even kill you, how many people are going to want to
play it?” asks Steve Fainaru.
League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis is a FRONTLINE
production with the Kirk Documentary Group. The producers are Michael Kirk, Jim Gilmore and
Mike Wiser. The director is Michael Kirk. The writers are Michael Kirk, Mike Wiser, Steve Fainaru
and Mark Fainaru-Wada. The reporters are Jim Gilmore, Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada. The
deputy executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath. The executive
producer of FRONTLINE is David Fanning.
FRONTLINE is U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series
and explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. The series has won every
major journalism and broadcasting award, including 57 Emmy Awards and 14 Peabody Awards. More
than 150 FRONTLINE films can be watched online at pbs.org/frontline.
FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide
on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and
by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is
provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by
the Park Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund.
FRONTLINE is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers by the Media
Access Group at WGBH. FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of the WGBH Educational
For further information contact Linda Miller, WTVP Vice President of
at (309) 495-0591 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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