Concussions in the NFL: Twitter Chat for PBS’s League of Denial

league of denial, football concussion

credit: Flickr

We were inspired by PBS’s recent research about concussions in the NFL.  Through their research project, Concussion Watch, they’ve been tracking injuries since 2009 and were surprised to see the numbers rising, even while the NFL is trying to limit their likelihood on the field.

On Tuesday there will be a two-hour FRONTLINE special, “League of Denial” which will show the issues players and the NFL are facing.  In the words of the trailer, “You’ll never watch football the same way again.”

Some Statistics

  • In 2011, 142 players suffered from concussions
  • In 2012 that number rose to 160 players
  • So far this year Concussion Watch has tracked 36 concussions through week four of the regular season (as of 10/7/13)

The tracking however is incomplete.  It doesn’t include pre-season injuries and it doesn’t include players who get injured in the last week of the regular season but their team doesn’t make the playoffs.  It also doesn’t account for players who don’t report their symptoms and continue to play.

One more statistic, 56% percent of players said they may not report symptoms to their medical staff so that they can keep on playing.

Football isn’t the only sport in which concussions take a central place in athlete health.  Recently, some controversy stirred when the upset of the century in mixed martial arts saw its greatest-ever champion, Anderson Silva, get knocked out cold.  Some have said his rush to regain his title is unsafe.  The remarkable part when compared to the NFL?  He, like every knocked-out fighter, is forced to take a medical suspension of 30 days, in which they are not to train with any physical contact.  So a fighter who loses by KO – an almost guaranteed concussion with or without public confirmation – is sidelined at least for a month, but an NFL player with a medically verified concussion by some of the world’s best doctors can be cleared to go full-speed (not just light sparring) in as little as a week?  Anyone see a problem with this?

Sermo has taken on the role this season of collaborating as a community about NFL injuries as they appear.  The physicians are discussing outcomes and possible treatment options, bringing a wide array of expertise and specialties to the table.

For instance, symptoms of head trauma may include hearing issues, sight problems, depression, as well as neurological impairment.  A patient could require medical consults with ophthalmology, audiology, psychiatry and neurologists.  On Sermo, these specialists can easily come together and discuss treatment options and patient care.

The goal is that by discussing injuries we can better treat and prevent them.  While we hope this will provide insight to the NFL we also hope that new ideas can be used on every playing field from Pop Warner football, through college and into the pros.

Twitter Chat

We will be hosting a live twitter chat on October 8th from 9 to 11 pm ET to watch FRONTLINE’s “League of Denial,” and to comment about the show as it’s airing.  Physicians will join us and give their opinions on injury rates, patient care, and recovery.  In particular we’ll be talking with Dr. Julian Fisher, M.D. a neurologist with insight into concussions.

Look for the hashtag #leagueofdenial to join the discussion.

We hope you’ll watch “League of Denial” and share in the conversation.  If you’re a physician and would like to have a private discussion with your peers, please join us at

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