Modern Med Prevents 100 Football Deaths, Likely More
Only Trauma Care, Not ‘Safer’ Football, Foils Annual Massacre
Grave Injury, Costs Still Hit Hundreds of Families, Many Schools
Cantu and Mueller Refuse Redress for Faulty UNC Studies
By Matt Chaney
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Rest uneasy, American parents, because tackle football remains barbaric like 1905.
Modern helmets and pads accomplish nothing for your players except heightening ferocity of their collisions, injury and pain.
No, President Teddy Roosevelt didn’t save football way back when. He didn’t alter ridiculous dangers and set the game on saner course, as goes the fairytale largely borne by officials and sport media.
And certainly nothing is changing today for better health of football players. New equipment and football-funded “research” do not create safe environment in the blood sport.
Officials and associate “experts” never have reformed football dangers, which they cannot believe possible. Their historic smokescreens begin with the folk hero “T.R.”
Roosevelt only preserved football against abolitionists a century ago, cloaking and sanitizing football’s barbaric nature for public perception and consumption.
The wily politician appointed a body of bureaucrats as overseers that became the NCAA, which tells us everything, while passing along his magic phrase: “safer football.”
And the sport carried on in rising popularity, cresting as entertainment monolith and predominant cultural force, endorsed by every vital institution—but now facing lawsuits by the dozens.
Because football remains utterly dangerous, amounting to simple mass carnage, and likely worse than ever, given case notes on 23 deaths of 1905 collected and posted by game historian and blogger Tom Benjey.
Juxtapose Benjey’s collection for comparison to 219 casualty cases for 2011—see annotated cases in my Feb. 12 post on ChaneysBlog—and the violence of football in notorious 1905 seems quaint, if not “safer.”
Setting all cases on equal response terms, the primitive medicine of 1905—or leaving state-of-art trauma care out of the equation—football today would kill hundreds annually or more, given both the publicized grave casualties and the assuredly large number undisclosed in public for numerous limitations on information (see my recent posts).
And while head injuries dominate current debate over football, blows to torso and legs are likewise lethal.
So-called “proper” techniques of hitting, allegedly to avoid head contact, resolve nothing by encouraging players to strike below necklines.
Body shots have always mutilated and killed players. In fact, internal injury led causes of death that Benjey accumulated for 1905 fatality cases, not brain or spinal trauma, among reports from period newspapers and magazines.
Deaths such as 1 player killed of kidney rupture and 1 of heart laceration from fractured ribs, suffered in football collisions that year.
In comparing 2011 football deaths, 26 case leads that I located online, no autopsy cited organ rupture and bleeding as causal agent.
I found, however, 50 football survivors of organ trauma in 2011, nasty injuries ranging from severe to catastrophic for lung, kidney, liver and spleen. Many victims are still recovering.
At least half required emergency surgery to control internal hemorrhaging, according to details available in Google banks, and apparently would’ve died a century ago for lack of effective medicine and care.
In another category, non-cerebral blood clots, the condition killed at least 1 football player in 1905 and at least 2 in 2011, all developing from leg injuries.
Last year at least 12 players survived non-cerebral blood clots originating of collision and owe their lives to modern medical response, including athletic trainers, paramedics and ER surgeons.
Many more football survivors of bodily catastrophe in 2011 would’ve faced stark odds or hopelessness for survival in 1905, including for heatstroke, cardiac arrest, heart attack, compartment syndrome, brain bleeding, neck fracture and deadly infection (antibiotics weren’t introduced until World War II).
In sum, among known grave casualties last year, more than 100 football players would’ve succumbed with a 1905 medical response, not only the 20 or so who died.
Obviously, annual healthcare expense of football casualties today is monumental for their families and society at-large, totaling billions of dollars.
All self-sustaining Americans pay to support gridiron carnage, particularly in our standard consumer pools of medical and liability coverage. The sport of tackle football holds no special designation for risk and casualty by insurance carriers, not yet.
And “catastrophic injury” insurance for athletics, carried by schools and colleges in coverage co-ops, does not pay off in every case, such as for family and school of a Georgia football player, age 16, who died in 2011 after a week hospitalized in ICU. Apparently, government Medicaid and local fundraising are paying toward final cost of the teen’s healthcare and funeral.
Meanwhile, media-privileged football “experts” are no help in the mushrooming mess, preferring to stay mute on any critical question.
These game-connected medical doctors and PhDs speak only to friendly reporters who parrot their flimsy “study” numbers and silly theories, supposedly reforming tackle football but serving to propagate dangerous, irresponsible mythology of a manageable environment.
Indeed, one father of an aspiring youth player recently spoke of “happy medium” football for his son. Countless parents buy the lie, believing their children can play this game without suffering dire consequence to themselves and friends.
It’s pathetic, an American travesty of spin and public delusion, and a multitude of silent, football-pandering doctors are foremost to blame.
Dr. Robert Cantu won’t speak straight, being football’s celebrated neurosurgeon and injury historian, as he promotes his pending book for guiding parents in the game.
Cantu and more renowned football “researchers” want to ignore my online review producing 219 severe casualties for 2011, especially my findings that confront their study claims and pressure their connections to funding or other political influence.
Since October, Dr. Robert Cantu and professor Frederick Mueller have declined comment on my online results that prove major faults in their annual “catastrophic injury” reports, published under auspices of the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Cantu, based at Boston University, where his Sports Legacy Institute receives $1 million from the NFL, addresses his Carolina cohort as “Dr. Mueller,” a UNC professor in sports medicine and former football coach who holds but a PhD in education.
The NCAA primarily funds the UNC center and reports by Mueller and Cantu, with data presented as valid epidemiology and repeated at face value by medical journals and the CDC, not to mention witless journalists like me, formerly.
The Mueller-Cantu numbers are terribly flawed, beset by underreporting only recently exposed through electronic searches that document their misses, football case leads in news that triple and double their data for 2010 and 2009, or “total” numbers, as they stated, for catastrophic brain and spinal injuries.
My first clues to their underreporting began when I played prep and college football decades ago, close to death and catastrophic survivor casualties who weren’t recorded. These injuries affecting friends and acquaintances included two fatal of cardiac problems, apparently, an offensive tackle hit by blood clots following knee injury, and a ruptured spleen, removed within an hour at the local ER; the linebacker got blasted in a practice, on pass rush, halted in stride at midsection by jab punch of an offensive lineman.
In the 1982 season, I experienced bodily calamity by turning a knee inside-out on a pass rush, involving no contact in the moment but likely originating from previous collision in sandlot football. Every ligament class was destroyed or damaged, along with meniscus, and the deep peroneal nerve channel was yanked and shredded five inches, rendering my foot permanently “dropped” of peripheral nerve paralysis.
A few years later, as a journalist, I was disappointed to learn Mueller and Cantu only tracked paralysis cases resulting of insult to the spinal-cord nerve bundle.
I knew of several “drop foot” football players like myself, including NFL running back William Andrews and Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill, yet we weren’t included in “total” injury data.
Today, I find up to a half-dozen such football injuries in a given year, like 2010, and only among limited cases available through Google.
Beyond inexcusably narrow scope of injury categories by Mueller and Cantu, I came to realize, through my extensive electronic searching of football health topics beginning in the 1990s, that they apparently didn’t gather adequate numbers from the brain and spinal cases online.
The final days of 2010 and subsequent UNC report clinched my observation. Dealing directly with Cantu was an eye-opener.
First, as Cantu defended invalid “concussion testing” during a telephone interview with me, he outright scoffed at my mention of at least 11 known football deaths of the year, cases I had collected and already posted on my blog!
I immediately corrected the presumptuous, erroneous doctor, or scientist, by informing him I would forward the 11 cases soon as we hung up the phone, and I did, along with additional football deaths I subsequently located. No way would Cantu have found all those 2010 cases without me.
Next, astonishingly, Cantu or Mueller, or the former's press person, missed one file I forwarded, a 2010 football collision death I’d found, 15-year-old Quadaar White, youth player in Upper Darby, Pa.
In February 2011, UNC posted the erroneous Mueller-Cantu data for 2010 football on the university’s Website, and the researchers have since ignored my public and private communiqués regarding their sizable underreporting, beginning with omission of White and the February 2010 death of college player Ben Bundy.
The misses on 2010 survivors are atrocious, including cases of brain impairment and spinal paralysis I’ve found, wholly overlooked by Mueller and Cantu.
For 2010 and 2009 combined, I’ve located online about 165 survivor leads fitting catastrophic definition of Mueller and Cantu, or about 100 above the cases they’ve gathered, confirmed and published for UNC.
But they decline my offer to forward those names, probably because they’re presently occupied with the 2011 cases I’ve dropped in overwhelming quantity.
Their chances are slim for a February publication date this time, and Mueller and Cantu obviously have to postpone exam and revision of their erroneous data infecting “safer football” trend claims they’ve constructed since 1977.
My 100-plus survivor leads for 2011, currently in review by Mueller and Cantu, will finalize a record number for UNC reports, given the current high mark of 63 for 2008.
Meanwhile, the useless 2010 report remains posted on the university site, a year running, verifiably incorrect in every category of injury allegedly studied for football.
Mueller and Cantu issue a lofty, careless proclamation in the Introduction:
“The primary purpose of the research… is to make the game of football a safer sport.”
Right. The real-world actions of Mueller and Cantu just make football seem safer, serving the goal of people close to them, especially providers of funding.
Thus the hireling experts and football promoters can count mission accomplished, ever since wily old T.R.
Matt Chaney is a writer, editor, teacher and restaurant worker living in Missouri, USA. His 2001 graduate thesis study for an MA degree at the University of Central Missouri was qualitative media analysis of 466 football reports, historical print coverage of anabolic steroids and HGH in American football, largely based on electronic search among thousands of news texts from the 1970s through 1999. For more information, including contact numbers and his 2009 book, Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, visit the homepage at www.fourwallspublishing.com.