Article Also Suggests Giants Owner Was Link Between League, Tobacco Industry

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An NFL committee used faulty data in issuing more than a dozen research papers downplaying the dangers of head injuries, according to a report in The New York Times.

The committee was formed in 1994 after several star players retired early after suffering concussions. In response to criticism of the panel, the NFL later brought in doctors who said the committee’s analysis was flawed.

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But an investigation by the Times also found that the committee’s data, which was said to be comprehensive, omitted more than 100 diagnosed concussions from 1996 to 2001, resulting in findings that suggested concussions were occurring less frequently than they actually were.

The NFL admitted to the Times that teams were not required to submit their data, and not every club did. The league said that point should have been made clearer and insisted there was no concerted effort to manipulate the findings.

The research was published in 13 peer-reviewed articles and pointed to over the last 13 years by the NFL as scientific evidence that brain injuries did not cause long-term health problems for players, the Times reported.

The NFL released a statement Thursday saying those studies were preliminary and acknowledged more research was needed.

“Since that time, the NFL has been on the forefront of promoting and funding independent research on these complex issues,” the statement said. “Further, the data from the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) Committee studies have not been used in any way by the current Head, Neck and Spine Committee in its research on player health and safety. All of the current policies relating to player medical care and the treatment of concussions have been carefully developed in conjunction with independent experts on our medical committees, the NFLPA, and leading bodies such as the CDC.”

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In 2013, the NFL agreed to pay $765 million to settle concussion-related lawsuits. Some players have appealed, requesting an examination of the committee’s findings.

At a congressional hearing earlier this month, an NFL official admitted for the first time there is a link between football and the brain disease CTE.

The Times report also brought up the comparisons some retired players have made between how the NFL addressed concerns over concussions and how the tobacco industry used questionable science to downplay the hazards of smoking.

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While the newspaper said it found no direct proof the NFL borrowed its strategy from Big Tobacco, it noted that both industries shared lobbyists, lawyers and consultants.

Late Giants co-owner Bob Tisch also partly owned the cigarette company Lorillard and was a board member for the Tobacco Institute and the Council for Tobacco Research. In 1992, Tisch asked the cigarette company’s general counsel, Arthur Stevens, to contact then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue about certain legal issues, the Times reported. Stevens, who was a member of an industry committee that helped direct tobacco research projects, then referred Tagliabue to two court cases alleging the tobacco and asbestos industries covered up the health risks associated with their products.

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The NFL said in statement the league that “Mr. Tagliabue, the League nor its counsel ever solicited, reviewed, or relied on any advice from anyone at Lorillard or the Tobacco Institute regarding health issues.”