Concussions, ESPN And The Powerful Influence Of The National Football League

September 4, 2013

As the National Football League kicks off its season tomorrow night, with a game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos, two separate events involving the league this past week could not be more ironic in nature.  First came the news that the sports network ESPN, which has numerous shows devoted to the league and broadcasts Monday Night Football, had backed out of a partnership with the Public Television Station’s investigative show Frontline, to produce a documentary concerning football related concussions.  Then came the reports that the league had agreed to a $765 million settlement over a class action lawsuit brought forth by more than 4,500 former players alleging that playing the sport had caused dementia and other brain maladies as a result of concussions.

As players have become bigger, stronger and faster, the number of concussions seemingly has increased every year, even though new designs in helmets help prevent them.  However, this could all be due in part to more medical attention being paid to the health of the players.  Years ago, after a vicious hit, a player was said to have had his bell rung.  We now know that what actually occurred was the player most likely suffered a concussion.

What is disgusting however, is the attempt to cover up the effects of bone-jarring hits that was recently carried out by the NFL.  Frontline and ESPN had been researching for more than a year the effects of concussions on professional football players.  However, after a preview trailer of the two-part documentary was shown to the press, a meeting was conducted over lunch with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL Network President Steve Bornstein, ESPN President John Skipper and ESPN Executive Vice-President John Wildhack attending.  The topic of the meeting of course was the pending documentary.  Needless to say, it did not take long for ESPN to decide it no longer would be a participant of the program.  Was this purely a coincidence?  Not likely.

In a rather paradoxical twist to this drama, I place some blame on the sports network for the rise in the number of concussions.  It does not take a football coach to watch a game and notice the number of improper and illegal tackles being made.  Former defensive players turned television commentators often talk of bad tackling techniques.  This is where I place some blame on ESPN.  Instead of tackling a quarterback, running back or wide receiver properly, defensive players now go for the knockout blow, using the crown of their helmets as a weapon, hitting the opponent up around their head in order to make the network’s SportsCenter highlight reel.

Several years ago, PBS aired another Frontline documentary that addressed concussions and heat stroke among players, this time involving a high school football team from Arkansas.  Watching the program, my thought was every parent that had a child playing football, should see this show.  By the time the program ended, my conclusion was, if I had to do it again, I would not want my son playing the sport he loved playing as a child, as did I.

It turns out that concussions suffered by grown men playing a vicious sport are not the only concern that need be addressed.  It is the banging together of helmets by young children that occur on every play during every game and even during every practice that just might be the biggest area of alarm.  If I remember right, one person made the comment during the program that this shaking of the developing brains of young children that occurs during every single play was very much like shaking a bowl of Jell-O.

Granted, concussions are very serious, especially when a player is experiencing more than one over a short period of time, however, to me the biggest trepidation is this shaking of the brains that occurs in every young player hundreds of times each and every season and is a topic that no one is addressing.  This insightful program is available on the internet.  To watch it, do a Google search for Frontline program about Arkansas high school football to find a link for the show.  If you have a child playing the game, it is definitely something every parent should watch.

Steven H. Spring


Is President Obama To Blame For Outrageous Health Care Insurance And Medical Treatment Cost Increases?

Is it fair to place total blame on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul legislation, “The Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act” (i.e., ObamaCare), for the outrageous cost of both health care insurance and medical treatment as both Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the Republican propaganda machine (i.e., the Fox News Network) are so to quick to do?  To blame the high cost of health insurance and treatment on the president’s attempt at giving all Americans affordable health insurance is a little like placing all blame on Santa Claus for the hideous gift you received last Christmas.  The rapid growth of health care spending has increased at a slower rate during the past two years than any other time over the past five decades.

As a nation, Americans pay twice as much yet receive half the health care benefits as that of all other developed countries.  Life expectancy in the United States ranks number fifty in the world.  With health care costs having risen more than one hundred and thirty percent between 1999 and 2009, it is this fact that is at the core of the problem.  From 2000 to 2009, profits for the ten largest insurance companies had increased two hundred and fifty percent, ten times faster than the rate of inflation.  Since 2008, the five largest health insurance companies had a combined profit of $12.2 billion, up fifty-six percent.

Part of the problem with our health care system is that doctors now routinely own the very clinics and labs in which they refer their patients for treatment and tests.  The Institute of Medicine estimates that unnecessary medical care costs this country more than two hundred billion dollars a year.  From 1996 through 2010, the number of ultrasounds performed has doubled, the number of CT scans has tripled and the number of MRIs has quadrupled.  Chemotherapy has been found to work on only three to five percent of the patients who undergo it, thus ninety-five percent receive no actual benefit but get both the toxicity poisoning and the bills.

The Institute of Medicine has also estimated that seventy-five billion dollars in insurance fraud is committed every year and nearly two hundred billion dollars are wasted each year in excessive administration costs.  Then there is the cost of our prescription medication.  Americans pay twice what Canadians do for the very same drugs.  It wasn’t all that long ago that local news was reporting on the busloads of senior citizens driving up to Canada to get their meds.  So many, that the FDA issued a report informing us of the hazards of taking medication purchased across the border, despite the fact that the very same pharmaceutical companies were manufacturing them.

With nearly fifty million Americans without health insurance, these uninsured people receive their health care via hospital emergency rooms, which compounds the problem in that this is the most expensive method of receiving treatment.  President Obama should be given credit for trying to insure all citizens have adequate health care.  As a nation, we should be ashamed of this statistic.

Steven H. Spring





When Is A Fine A Tax?

Since when is a fine a tax?  When the Republican Party loses its bid to have the Supreme Court rule against President Obama’s Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act (i.e., ObamaCare), that’s when.  With the Supreme Court ruling this past Thursday that ObamaCare is constitutional; Republican Congressional leaders have been in an uproar, whining like immature children that the president’s health care plan is a tax on Americans.

Granted, to help offset the high cost of health care as one ages, a person is now required to purchase health insurance as a youth.  What exactly is the basis of the allegation by the Republican Party that this is a tax?  How is it a tax, when in fact a person is actually purchasing something?  If the basis of the Republican argument is that the penalty imposed for not having health insurance is a tax, that line of reasoning is also ludicrous.  The penalty for not purchasing health insurance would be a fine, not a tax.  And according to the guidelines of the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act, the federal government has no authority to take legal action to collect such a fine from anyone who chooses not to purchase health insurance, thus rendering the Republican claim even more ridiculous.  For those who cry that this health care plan is unconstitutional, where is the uproar over the requirement that one is obligated by law to purchase car insurance?  If you never have an accident, as is the case of most American drivers, why be required to purchase automobile insurance?  Paying for a good or service is the capitalist mantra, is it not?

As a nation that has fifty million citizens without adequate health insurance, we spend twice as much on health care as most other industrialized countries, all the while receiving half the benefits.  What is wrong with our system is that it has become a very lucrative for-profit enterprise.  When doctors and hospitals care more about maximizing profits at the expense of providing adequate health care benefits for all Americans, something is seriously wrong.  Give the Democrats credit for trying to rectifying this very somber problem.

Steven H. Spring






Health Care Services

While reading the April 26th Columbus (Ohio, USA) Dispatch op-ed column “Sweden weathered a storm, and it’s doing just fine now” by the Washington Post’s Robert J. Samuelson, I was dumbfounded by his comment that Sweden has relied on higher patient co-payments to discourage people from overusing health care services.  So many Swedes were going to the doctor when they weren’t sick was the primary cause of that country’s runaway health care costs?  Really?

I do not know about most people, but as a middle-aged man the only time I go to my doctors are routine bi-annual visits to get refills for my life-saving meds.  I do not know of any person who schedules a doctor’s appointment without just cause.  Granted, health care costs have risen drastically the past several decades but I seriously doubt that the reason is due to people overusing their benefits.  Most likely, the real culprit is runaway health care fees for doctor visits, tests and prescriptions.

A large part of the problem is that it seems most hospitals now days are for-profit.  Another cause centers on the fact that many of the clinics that patients are referred to for various tests are owned by the very doctors that are sending their patients to.  Then there is the pharmaceutical industry, which is the most profitable industry in America.  And remember, President George W. Bush made it a law that the U.S. Department of Human Services cannot bargain with Big Pharma over the price of the meds it buys.

Our television airwaves are saturated with commercials for pharmaceuticals, most of which it seems are for Viagra or some other erectile dysfunction drug.  If anyone is overusing health care services, it is all those old men getting their sex-inducing drugs just so they can have intercourse all night long.  Charging people a higher fee to visit their doctor would result in many people being unable to pay their co-pay for an office visit when they are sick.  Other than an occasional hypochondriac, I seriously doubt that there are large numbers of people who visit their doctor when they have no need to do so.

Steven H. Spring






5 Hour Energy

Though the just completed holiday season is at its core a religious celebration, it is also a sports junky’s month-long fix.  I gave up watching the NBA several decades ago, but make up for it this time of the year with college basketball, college football bowl season and the NFL playoffs.  I will admit though, that I do limit the number of games that I watch.  One good thing about watching television is that if I am sitting in front of the TV, I have one of my guitars on my lap practicing my music.  However, watching a good number of games this holiday season, I was alarmed by the enormous number of commercials for 5 Hour Energy.  I believe that there was even a bowl game sponsored by this energy supplement.

These commercials recommend drinking 5 Hour Energy every morning for breakfast.  If you need a shot of 5 Hour Energy or any of the other energy boosters now available every morning just to get going, you have some serious problems in your life.  One can only imagine what will happen to a person health-wise as their body builds up a tolerance and addiction to these energy boosters after prolong use.

We are raising generations of children and young adults who first get their caffeine kick from Mountain Dew, then move on to more potent sports drinks and finally go hardcore with 5 Hour Energy or any of the other energy boosters now commonly available.  I find it incredible that 5 Hour Energy is sold at nearly every grocery or convenience store, placed at the check-out counter right beside the candy, with no age restrictions whatsoever.  Is there any wonder why our children can’t sit still in school and that we resort to drugging them with Ritalin and other mind altering drugs, which has become an epidemic in its use?

Steven H. Spring