PBS' 'Frontline' and ESPN's 'Outside the Lines' Launch NFL Concussion Tracker
PBS' Frontline and ESPN’s Outside the Lines Thursday launched a weekly database tracking concussions sustained by NFL players. Concussion Watch lets users track concussions confirmed by the NFL injury report by several different criteria including team, position or player. Not surprisingly, the position with the most concussions sustained this season is wide receiver with 27 followed by cornerback (18), safety (17) and running back (15).
The Concussion Watch website also encourages fans to report big hits and possible concussions via a confidential tip form and publicly via Twitter with the official #ConcussionWatch hashtag. If verified, the hits may be added to the database.
The Concussion Watch tracker is part of an ongoing initiative between ESPN’s Outside the Lines and Frontline exploring the concussion crisis in the NFL. Already, Outside the Lines reporters Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada have uncovered documents showing that in the 1990s and early 2000s, when the league’s medical experts were still publicly denying a link between football and crippling brain disease, the NFL board paid $2 million in disability payments to multiple players — including Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame center Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at age 50. The Fainarus' work will culminate in a full-length Frontline documentary, set to open the 32nd season of the long-running investigative series in fall 2013. They are also writing a book on the subject to be published next year by Crown Books.
Frontline producers are interviewing current and retired players as well as researchers studying the link between chronic traumatic encephalopathy – or “football brain disease” – and repeated blows to the head. Producers have yet to land a sitdown with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who suggested eliminating kick-offs – where players hurtle themselves down field to tackle the opponent's receiver – in a recent Time magazine cover story. And Fainaru-Wada told THR he’s “not optimistic” that the commissioner will ever capitulate to an on-camera interview.
Email: Marisa.Guthrie@thr.com; Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie