When one thinks of PBS, one doesn’t typically associate the network with football. But in one of the latest episodes of its news program Frontline, PBS “tackles” the NFL’s recent scandal centered on the battle over whether current and former NFL players suffer from a condition known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. This shows how big the scandal had become ever since the discovery of CTE in the late 1990s. Whether one is a PBS fan or a fan of the NFL, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis is a program that both audiences will want to watch. Audiences on both sides will want to watch this as it provides an in depth discussion on the scandal showing where it started and the eventual effect of the findings on the league as a whole. Audiences will find interesting, the interviews with both medical professionals and those with the league that paint the whole picture. The addition of vintage video of games helps to illustrate the subject matter even more. Audiences are also presented with visual imagery of the brains that were studied by the noted medical professionals. The imagery in question may be unfamiliar to most audiences. But in its own way, it helps to illustrate the arguments made by those arguing that CTE does in fact affect NFL players. This video, along with the vintage NFL game footage and the interviews on both sides make this episode of Frontline all the more intriguing for anyone with any interest in either the medical field or just the NFL.
PBS doesn’t typically delve into the world of professional sports with its programming. So when producers decided to take on the issue of CTE in NFL players, one knew instantly that the subject was far more wide ranging than just what was going on with the players. Audiences will see through the interviews culled for this episode of Frontline that CTE affects both current NFL players and those hoping to one day reach the ranks of the NFL. The interviews provide a clear, unbiased look at the situation and how important it is as not just a sports issue, but a health issue, too. Viewers will see how medical science was used to break open a scandal that continues to play a role in the NFL even today after the league paid out almost $800 million to former players and the families of former players that were found to have suffered from CTE as a result of their time in the NFL. Dr. Bennett Omalu is the first medical professional interviewed during the program’s two-hour run time. It was his autopsy of former Steelers legend Mike Webster that started the ball rolling in the case against the NFL covering up brain injuries to players. On the other side, an interesting argument is made that if CTE does in fact affect players, why is it that it only affects some players and not others. That’s not to say that it’s a strong argument. But it is an interesting one nonetheless.
The interviews used throughout this program are hard hitting to say the least. No pun intended. Just as powerful is the companion video used to illustrate the arguments being made. PBS uses footage from NFL films to show just how hard football players hit one another in the course of a normal game. One interviewee shares that when players hit one another in a normal game, it’s equivalent to hitting a brick wall at thirty-five miles per hour. This illustration combined with the provided footage from NFL Films puts quite well into perspective just how hard players hit one another again and again throughout just a single game. One can’t help but lean more towards the side of CTE as a cause of players’ brain injuries over their careers, despite what certain groups might have people believe. The footage of the dissected brains may not be the easiest thing for some viewers to handle. That should be noted right now. But much like the other video that accompanies the program’s interviews, it helps to illustrate even more the arguments being made by those that investigated them. Not everybody will fully comprehend or appreciate what is shown. Even this critic views the dissections as Latin so to speak. But for those that have any interest or experience in the medical field and/or forensic science, they play an extremely large role in the grand scheme of the program. In simple terms, they add that much more value to the presentation. And that added value makes this piece even more worth watching whether one is a hardcore NFL fan or not. League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis is available now and can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=24432136&cp=&sr=1&kw=league+of+denial&origkw=League+of+Denial&parentPage=search. More information on this and other releases from PBS is available online at http://www.pbs.org and http://www.facebook.com/pbs. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.