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Figures don’t lie, but liars do figure

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CT scans of 6 types of traumatic brain injury – NINDS

The NYT put its big reporter’s pants on and found the NFL concussion study omitted more than 10% of diagnosed cases.

For the last 13 years, the N.F.L. has stood by the research, which, the papers stated, was based on a full accounting of all concussions diagnosed by team physicians from 1996 through 2001. But confidential data obtained by The Times shows that more than 100 diagnosed concussions were omitted from the studies — including some severe injuries to stars like quarterbacks Steve Young and Troy Aikman. The committee then calculated the rates of concussions using the incomplete data, making them appear less frequent than they actually were.

After The Times asked the league about the missing diagnosed cases — more than 10 percent of the total — officials acknowledged that “the clubs were not required to submit their data and not every club did.” That should have been made clearer, the league said in a statement, adding that the missing cases were not part of an attempt “to alter or suppress the rate of concussions.”

Uh. Yeah. Like, we should have mentioned that. But the reason we didn’t was like, totally not because we’re lying or anything.

One member of the concussion committee, Dr. Joseph Waeckerle, said he was unaware of the omissions. But he added: “If somebody made a human error or somebody assumed the data was absolutely correct and didn’t question it, well, we screwed up. If we found it wasn’t accurate and still used it, that’s not a screw-up; that’s a lie.”

Screw up or lie? To quote the immortal bard – Why not both?

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  • Jeez, a corporation systematically modifies self-conducted research in order to purposely muddy the waters? Where in history has that ever happened before?

    • K488

      Let me step outside for a smoke and think about that.

    • FMguru

      Reminds me of studies done of pricing errors at supermarket checkouts, where they discover that something like 90% of mistakes (or “mistakes”) made by those laser scanners and computer databases result in the customer being overcharged (instead of a 50/50 split that truly random unintentional errors would create). I’m pretty sure errors on bank statements work the same way.

      Whoops, by total coincidence simple unavoidable human error results in the consumer getting screwed 90% of the time, just like I’m sure that it was freakish random chance that the medical data that was accidentally omitted from the NFL study was the data that made the NFL look bad.

  • The Dark God of Time

    Cue Throttle Jockey to tell us there’e nothing to see here in 3,2,1……..,,

    • ThrottleJockey

      Isn’t it mortals who usually invoke gods and not the other way around? ;-)

      My level of grievance here is relatively low vs something like Flint because I think the incidence of concussion was qualitatively known to be high if not precisely known quantitatively. Steve Young’s and Troy Aiman’s concussions were especially well known. Those guys grew up in a culture–and subscribed to a culture–that you were expected to “get your bell rung”. And you were a “panty-waist” if you didn’t play through it. Even today, from what I observe, that’s the predominant culture for the great majority of NFLers. Its bad of the NFL to misrepresent its data set as complete, but in the main the problem it confronts isn’t with the data, its with changing the culture:

      [NFL Sr VP Jeff] Miller’s admission means that the 2016 draft class will be the first ever to enter the league with the explicit knowledge that a long football career could potentially lead to serious brain damage.

      That knowledge might be enough to scare off some players and force a few early retirements, but it means nothing to USC linebacker Su’a Cravens.

      After the Trojans’ pro day on Wednesday, Cravens was asked if he’s concerned about CTE.

      No, I know I’m going to a game where I’m going to hit and sometimes you’re going to use your head to hit and you might get a concussion, that’s what we sign up for,” Cravens said, via ESPN.com’s Kyle Bonagura.

      Since players are now very aware of the health risks that come with playing in the NFL, Cravens doesn’t think the league should be so touchy about violent hits.

      The USC linebacker even suggested that helmet-to-helmet hits should be made legal.

      I saw the NFL passed that they’re not going to be paying any more lawsuits on CTE from now on, so if that’s the case, let’s take helmet-to-helmet penalties out,” Cravens said. “If we know what we’re signing up for, let’s play. That’s how I look at it.”

      Since the players sued the NFL and reached a settlement, I’m not sure that this changes anything on a practical level, but there are keener eyed fans and lawyers here who may know better.

      • The Dark God of Time

        CTE manifests itself in different ways depending on the person, and can be present for decades before symptoms are visible.

        “You have younger guys like Junior Seau or Dave Duerson who were very young and had years of suicidal thoughts, and you have other people like Frank Gifford, who had dementia,” Stern said, who has found CTE in people as young as 18.

        Last week, former NFL quarterbacks Ken Stabler and Earl Morrall were added to the growing list of players who had CTE, which can only be diagnosed after death.

        “We’re still really at the beginning of our understanding about this disease,” Stern said. “But every case of diagnosed CTE has had one thing in common: a history of repetitive hits to the head.”

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/super-bowl-nfl-cte_us_56b4cde9e4b04f9b57d94fa2

        • ThrottleJockey

          Yep. Is anyone here contesting CTE? What’s interesting about CTE is that many things may cause it. It’s being linked to soccer headers now and it’s even being theorized that light sub-concussive hits are equally likely coffee to cause CTE… This reminds me of epilepsy in that, unless it’s caused by brain tumors, it’s often unclear what causes epilepsy. The DR told my mother that her epilepsy may been caused by something as distant as a hit to the head as a little girl.

          • The Dark God of Time

            Yah know, you can go back to LBJ’s remark about Gerald Ford having played football one too many times without a helmet or even before that to know that there was a realization of a connection between suffering concussions and a resulting lowering of function or ability later on.

            It just took a while for medical research to demonstrate this using tools and techniques that were unavailable when your mother was a child.

            There have been many cases of epilepsy that followed a concussion or some sort of acute or chronic damage suffered by the brain. In my family, a cousin started having seizures after striking his head on the concrete floor of the house his family was living in at the time.

  • Vance Maverick

    I think Waeckerle’s principle means that a group of people can conspire to put forward any pernicious claim without “lying”. All it takes is for one of them to at least formally conceal some critical information from the other, before a statement is made.

    • CrunchyFrog

      True, but in addition sometimes a large group of people will conspire to lie knowingly about something – contrary to popular belief that if a conspiracy is afoot “someone will talk”. We have examples of conspiracies that really did happen in which no one involved talked – from Baseball Collusion to Operation Northwoods.

      • Vance Maverick

        Or, turning it around: we can say with full justification that “the NFL lied” in this case, and allow Waeckerle his self-justification, because the stain on him personally is irrelevant.

        ETA: I should originally have said that there doesn’t have to be individual lying, in fact, that doesn’t need to concern us.

  • DrDick

    Gosh, a business group lying about the fact that they are making billions off of causing devastating injuries to their employees and trying to minimize the facts? I cannot even imagine!

    • Steve LaBonne

      It’s just so un-American, innit?

  • howard

    so just on sunday i read the heartrending public editor’s discussion about how this time for sure the times was going to crack down on anonymous sources.

    and what do we see here? an anonymous quote that has no business being anonymous.

    and what did the public editor assure us? that the editors really truly this time have got it.

    i realize, in the scheme of things, this is a minor part of this particular article and shakezula’s reasons for discussing it, but it just shows how deeply embedded into journalist culture anonymous quotes are.

  • Heron

    To quote the immortal bard – Why not both?

    Ok I realize this very likely isn’t the case, but omg did you just make a Homestuck reference at Lawyersgunsandmoneyblog.com???

    • I’ve seen it mentioned, but I still have no idea what a Homestuck is.

      • Vance Maverick

        I took this to be a reference to the philosopher’s resolution of the soft/crisp taco debate.

      • Heron

        Ah ok. It’s a webcomic that spoofs a bunch of things, and one of those things is RPGs, and one of the characters is a circumstantially immortal bard, and one of his most remembered lines is saying, in his own inimitable idiom, “why can’t it be both things?”

        But HS tends to be absurdly referential, so maybe having an immortal bard say that was, in itself, a reference that I missed u_u

  • Shantanu Saha

    Roger Goodell’s NFL engaged in lies and obfuscation? I’m shocked! Shocked, I say!

    • jeer9

      And Ballghazi’s draft picks aren’t being returned to the Patriots either, though Brady’s suspension may be enforced.

      Good(ell) times.

  • DocAmazing

    And all this time I thought George Costanza was a baseball fan…

  • libarbarian

    But by all means keeping watching and enriching them.

    Because it’s not like fans who keep watching and enriching them, but condemn their actions on the internet, contribute to the problem or anything

    • Steve LaBonne

      Count me out. I have always loathed football. It’s the quintessential American sport- violent, militaristic, and at the college level, rather like a plantation.

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