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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 3, 2018


Concussion: How the NFL came to shape the issue that plagued it

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Players kneeling during the national anthem is the most recent NFL controversy, but certainly not the first nor the biggest.

Concussion has dogged the NFL since the 1990s, and its initial response––avoidance and superficial gestures to mollify critics––damaged its public image. However, in recent years, the league has repositioned itself as a leader in concussion prevention and research, a new University of Michigan study shows.

The study found that the NFL’s newly proactive stance shows how a large organization can wrest control of and shape the very issue that haunted it.

“They said, ‘We’ll change, but it’s going to be on our terms, we want to be the leaders in concussion,’ ” said Kathryn Heinze, assistant professor in kinesiology and study author. “They said, ‘If we have to change, we’ll take credit. We’ll create the funding, we’ll create the partnerships with other organizations, we’ll work to pass new laws.’ When they finally realized they had to do something they realized they had to be the leaders.”

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