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From the Publisher
"PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYERS DO NOT SUSTAIN FREQUENT
REPETITIVE BLOWS TO THE BRAIN ON A REGULAR BASIS."
So concluded the National Football League in a December 2005
scientific paper on concussions in America's most popular sport.
That judgment, implausible even to a casual fan, also contradicted
the opinion of a growing cadre of neuroscientists who worked in
vain to convince the NFL that it was facing a deadly new scourge: A
chronic brain disease that was driving an alarming number of
players -- including some of the all-time greats -- to
League of Denial reveals how the NFL, over a period of
nearly two decades, sought to cover up and deny mounting evidence
of the connection between football and brain damage.
Comprehensively, and for the first time, award-winning ESPN
investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru tell
the story of a public health crisis that emerged from the playing
fields of our 21st century pastime. Everyone knew that football is
violent and dangerous. But what the players who built the NFL into
a $10 billion industry didn't know - and what the league sought to
shield from them - is that no amount of padding could protect the
human brain from the force generated by modern football; that the
very essence of the game could be exposing these players to brain
In a fast-paced narrative that moves between the NFL trenches,
America's research labs and the boardrooms where the NFL went to
war against science, League of Denial examines how the
league used its power and resources to attack independent
scientists and elevate its own flawed research -- a campaign with
echoes of Big Tobacco's fight to deny the connection between
smoking and lung cancer. It chronicles the tragic fates of players
like Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, who was
so disturbed at the time of his death he fantasized about shooting
NFL executives; and former Chargers great Junior Seau, whose
diseased brain became the target of an unseemly scientific battle
between researchers and the NFL. Based on exclusive interviews,
previously undisclosed documents and private emails, this is the
story of what the NFL knew and when it knew it - questions at the
heart of crisis that threatens football, from the highest levels
all the way down to Pop Warner.