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review 2017-02-27 01:14
League Of Denial by Mark Fainaru-Wada & Steve Fainaru
League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth - Steve Fainaru,Mark Fainaru-Wada

“PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYERS DO NOT SUSTAIN FREQUENT REPETITIVE BLOWS TO THE BRAIN ON A REGULAR BASIS.”
So concluded the National Football League in a December 2005 scientific paper on concussions in America’s most popular sport. That judgment, implausible even to a casual fan, also contradicted the opinion of a growing cadre of neuroscientists who worked in vain to convince the NFL that it was facing a deadly new scourge: A chronic brain disease that was driving an alarming number of players -- including some of the all-time greats -- to madness. League of Denial reveals how the NFL, over a period of nearly two decades, sought to cover up and deny mounting evidence of the connection between football and brain damage. Comprehensively, and for the first time, award-winning ESPN investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru tell the story of a public health crisis that emerged from the playing fields of our 21st century pastime. Everyone knew that football is violent and dangerous. But what the players who built the NFL into a $10 billion industry didn’t know – and what the league sought to shield from them – is that no amount of padding could protect the human brain from the force generated by modern football; that the very essence of the game could be exposing these players to brain damage. In a fast-paced narrative that moves between the NFL trenches, America’s research labs and the boardrooms where the NFL went to war against science, League of Denial examines how the league used its power and resources to attack independent scientists and elevate its own flawed research.

Amazon.com

 

 

The Fainaru Bros. team up to deliver this in-depth investigation into the NFL's persistent denial that head traumas are a serious epidemic within the game of football, particularly on the professional level. With a whole team of journalists pitching in on this project to uncover the truth, investigating survivors of now-deceased victims, the Fainaru Bros. (ESPN journalists themselves) lay it out for even the most casual sports fan -- brain trauma is most definitely a thing in this industry and it needs to be more seriously addressed and managed. 

 

League of Denial focuses on the careers of some of the most high-profile NFL players, from the 1970s to the early 2000s, to be fatally affected by repeatedly unchecked incidents of brain trauma. The specifics of this brain trauma were first identified by neuropathologist Dr. Bennett Omalu after he found himself baffled by the odd results of the autopsy he did on former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike "Iron Mike" Webster. The Nigerian born Omalu admitted that he didn't follow American football, so he had no idea of Webster's celebrity status when assigned to do his autopsy. He was simply fascinated and perplexed by the case from a medical standpoint. 

 

Mike Webster played for the Steelers during the 1970s-80s. At the end of his rookie year, the Steelers won their first Superbowl. Throughout his career, Webster would take a number of hard hits to the body, mostly to the head. He regularly complained to his wife of debilitating migraines, describing it as an "icepick" kind of pain, but his official NFL medical records only show two instances where the team doctor noted Webster having a head injury. TWO. In a career that spanned nearly 18 years. And those two were largely written off as simply mild dizziness and a bit of low blood sugar. There was one record of Webster suffering a neck injury and being given an injected painkiller, but he soon had an allergic reaction to the medication and had to be rushed to the hospital. Fearful of losing his place on the team, Webster checked himself out of the hospital and played in a Steelers game the very next day. 

 

After Webster's death at age 50, Omalu and some of his medical colleagues looked into Webster's medical history beyond what the NFL had documented. Conversing with Webster's widow and still-living former teammates, it didn't take long for Omalu and his team to start documenting history of Webster struggling with depression, OCD, and paranoia, not to mention marital and financial strife. All key commonalities that would pop up in the life stories of future autopsy investigations of NFL players who had likewise died under mysterious circumstances. Further investigation aired stories of past and current players who admitted to playing through serious injury because they didn't want to let down teammates or they feared losing their NFL positions (which would threaten the financial stability those incomes provided for players' family members). 

 

Dr. Omalu put together all his findings and named the condition Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Prior to that, the condition was most commonly known as "punch drunk syndrome" and was most widely known to be found in professional boxers. 

 

But it's not just Webster that this book focuses on. The Fainaru Bros. also look at the cases of other players who have now been determined to have died as a result of CTE, a condition that, to date, can only be diagnosed after death. These cases include detailed histories of the lives & deaths of NFL players Terry Long, Justin Strzelczyk, Andre Waters, Merrill Hoge, Dave Duerson, and Junior Seau (You can read details on these and additional cases by looking at this CBS slideshow). If you're concerned about not being versed enough in professional football to enjoy this book, don't be. I'd recommend you to try it if the topic at all interests you. Though I enjoy watching football, I would not describe myself as a fanatic by any means. Yet I had no trouble keeping up with the topic at all. There are a few parts that got a little more on the technical / dry side than I enjoy, but for the most part I found this to have a nice pace for a non-fiction piece. I was also surprised at the gamut of emotions it pulled from me -- at times I felt that sensation of reading an action novel, other times I was enraged at the lax attitude of the NFL, even with clear evidence shoved in front of their faces, or sometimes moved to tears at the pain these families were put through. With Mike Webster's story in particular, it broke my heart to read how he was pretty much abandoned by the NFL after he stopped being financially valuable to them. 

 

After you check out this book, I would also highly recommend watching the film Concussion which covers much of the same information this book looks at, and stars Will Smith, who portrays Dr. Omalu. 

 

I still watched & enjoyed this year's Superbowl after reading this book, but I definitely viewed the game through new eyes, having this book in my mind the whole time! 

 

 

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Extras:

 

PBS Frontline did an episode which accompanies the book League of Denial, which I have linked below for anyone interested:

 

League of Denial documentary

 

 

Also, while I was going over my notes for this write-up, I came across a news article on SI.com that gives a surprising (or not) little update on the work of Dr. Omalu that you might be interested in... looks like he's still struggling with the professional sports industry accepting the seriousness of his findings, this time with professional wrestling:

 

Boston University rescinds award to Concussion doctor Bennet Omalu

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review 2017-02-22 21:39
Book Review: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster - Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air is both thrilling and terrifying. Not that I was considering it, but I will now never take mountain climbing as a hobby — especially mountains where high-altitude sickness is a problem. Krakauer includes the history of Mount Everest along with the day-to-day events of his expedition, which added an interesting, enjoyable element to the novel. Not only was I reading a great story, I felt like I was learning a lot too.

 

Into Thin Air is a tragic story that is wonderfully told. The level of detail included in the descriptions is remarkable. I felt like I was climbing Everest with the author, going through the same psychological and physical torture. I also got to know those who climbed with him, sharing in their successes and failures. I want to note that there is a controversy as to whether the events happened like Krakauer said they happened; I am sure, with all that was going on at the time, that there are discrepancies with events, but I doubt that they are serious since he also interviewed multiple people who were there as well.

 

I would recommend this book for anyone who is at all interested in adventure or memoirs. If you’re squeamish, you should maybe stay away, since there are descriptions of some pretty awful sights and diseases (I got queasy more than a few times). However, I think that Into Thin Air is a novel most people will find a worthwhile read.

Source: www.purplereaders.com/?p=2214
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review 2017-02-20 15:04
Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia - Sy Montgomery,Nic Bishop
Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia - Sy Montgomery,Nic Bishop

Maddeningly, I could not get my Fire to cooperate and let me write some kind of review yesterday.

 

Scientists in the Field Series

 

I've read two now, and on behalf of the parents of inquisitive children, let me say "Thank You! HMH Books for Young Readers, thank you so much for producing non-fiction books for children that have actual content. Mere words cannot express my gratitude. Here, take all my money and produce more of these fine volumes."

 

I can't be the only adult to rend my garments and gnash my teeth and having to read aloud the one hundredth book on say, pandas, that the child has managed to find, and that contains several lovely pictures and not enough facts or even theories to fill a photo caption. Three year olds may lack context, but they aren't stupid. Nor are they afraid of big words. Everyone has met the equivalent of the child who knows the correct names and pronunciations (I always had a hard time with these, the stress is never where I expect it to be) of every dinosaur ever cataloged. All that brainspace, and nothing to fill it up. But not this series. These books, bless 'em,these books tell the reader so much. This one gives a bit of personal history of the lead researcher on the project, what he studied in college, what kinds of jobs and graduate school lead to him being in expert on the snow leopards of Mongolia and how to count them, despite being one of the most difficult animals to locate in the wild.

 

There's a bit of background on the political and cultural history of Mongolia, a bit of the climate and ecology of the Gobi. there's a bit on language, on the practicality of gers (Mongolian yurts), and the popularity of the color orange in the painting of doors, which with the frames can be popped into the ger as it is set up. there's information on the physical demands of this particular field work, on the challenges of feeding a vegetarian writer in a region whose diet is almost entirely meat and dairy.

 

And then, of course, there is the science. In order to save an endangered species you have to be able to estimate the population and gauge the trend in population after an intervention. Tracking animals with radio collars is helpful, but first you have to safely capture the animals, and these big kitties are so perfectly camouflaged it is possible to be within two feet of one with a tracking collar and still not see it.

 

I'll stop now. I think I've made it clear how enjoyable and informative the books in this series are. I haven't managed to talk anyone in the family into starting either of these yet, but my ceaseless yammering will wear down their resistance. Perhaps you are not a fan of books for younger readers, or you're not interested in the science of [insert fascinating topic here]. Even so, I ask you to keep them in mind. Make sure the youngest people of your acquaintance have a copy that suits their particular interests. Keep them in mind as an introduction to a topic that is more entertaining and encompassing than the average Wiki, but short enough to read in a couple of hours. Or just check one out of the library to look at the pretty pictures (the photography meets the same high standards as the text, and the back matter) and read the captions, that'll teach you enough to sound well informed at the next cocktail party [I've never actually attended a cocktail party, possibly they do not exist outside of fiction. Feel free to substitute the making-conversation-with-strangers-or-nearly scenario that works best for you.]

 

If you aren't in the habit of reading nonfiction for children, but you've read this gushing review anyway, I thank you. If you didn't read the review, but somehow found this bit at the end, I'll put it in this perspective: if I graded books on a scale, all the others would have to be marked down from five stars to one.

 

Library copy

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review 2017-02-18 20:43
The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing t... The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing to Eat - Louise Gray

An interesting and thoughtful look at modern meat production.  Recommended.

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review 2017-02-12 14:41
Families
Families - Shelley Rotner,Sheila M. Kelly

Families is a short nonfiction book describing the many types of families. It received a score of AD210L on the Lexile reading scale, and would be a good book to use in a kindergarten or preschool classroom. This would be a good book to teach about diversity as it explains that families come in many different varieties. 

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