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League of Denial by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru

By , Beaverton, OR

Concussions have plagued football since the NFL was created.  But just recently the safety of the game has been questioned by the media and players due to the strangely high numbers of suicides by former NFL players.  Doctors believe these deaths may have been caused by the constant blows to the players heads resulting in them to eventually go insane.  This disease would later be known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).  The novel League of Denial by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru follows the career and post career of hall of fame center, Mike Webster who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1974-1979 but played in the NFL for 17 years.  The book describes the first time a doctor did an autopsy on the body of Mike Webster calling it “One of the most significant moment in sports history.” (63)  Mike’s brain had taken so much damage from the NFL that the doctor said the brain scan looked like “The brain of a boxer, an old person with Alzheimer's disease, or someone who has just had a severe head injury” (68)  I liked that the book began with this scene because it made me very interested about the life of Mike Webster and what could have happened to him in his career that would make the doctor react in that way.


This novel describes in great detail the careers of other NFL players who have also suffered concussions and claimed that they have experienced memory loss and other signs of CTE.  But the most interesting part of this book was exclusive research the authors were able to obtain from doctors and researchers who both worked for and against the NFL involving the concussion crisis.  The NFL tries to combat the research doctors are doing on concussions because if football is scene as a dangerous sport and is causing it’s athletes to die years after being in the league the NFL would take colossal financial damage.  The book tells about all the tactics the NFL uses to keep this ground breaking research secret.  I thought the author could have done a better job of connecting the story of Mike Webster and the research part of the book a little better, at times the book would talk about the career of Mike Webster then it would unexpectedly go back to talking about modern research.  But I was able to connect pretty well with this story because I used to play football when I was in grade school but I had to quit in the 6th grade because I got a concussion.  My parents told me that was the end of my football career because they knew if i continued to play in high school and possibly even college my chances of getting brain damage was very great. 


Overall I really enjoyed this book.  It’s interesting facts and descriptions of groundbreaking scientific discoveries made the book very hard to put down.  I learned a lot from this book and it opened my eyes on the danger of football, it made me glad that I decided to quit the sport early even though I enjoyed playing it.  When I first got this book I didn’t expect it to be suspenseful or even interesting at all but I was very wrong.  Especially when the book described how the NFL did anything to keep scientists from sheing their findings, some scientists lives were threatened if they went public with their information.  This book would be good for any sport fan and even readers that enjoy science.  Me being an athlete the book gave me good info on how to take care of my body so I can play for as long as possible.  It gives good insight on the extremely competitive nature of professional sports both on and off the field. 






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