Dear James Graham
It was good to chat on Sunday evening and while I will observe our agreement that it was off the record, allow me to say our robust debate was emblematic of that being had in sports circles around the world, and it is a really important one. That is, just how dangerous is repeated concussions for sportspeople; what is the right protocol for dealing with them, and what can all of us do to make the games we play safer for the next generation?
I not only entirely accept your own sincerity and the fact you care passionately about the issue but commend you on it. I was underwhelmed by your comments a fortnight ago about concussion, but accept you take it seriously. The football world, particularly, needs more like you, to engage and care about it while they are still playing. I am glad that you, in turn, accepted that I had no axe to grind against you personally, and that I was entirely sincere in my remarks at having admired the way you have played over the years, while still fearing for your noggin.
Nevertheless, as discussed, and for the record, I stand by every word of my column, and where we differ is what is fact and what is not. You are proud of having done your research. I am proud of having written deeply on the subject for the better part of a decade, and having for television and newspaper purposes interviewed the world leaders in the field.
James, I wont go through all of your responses in the statement on the St George Illawarra website and break them down one by one, because it would be tedious and probably unhelpful. But let me record that, beyond your phone call on Sunday evening, the first I knew that your response was online came in a phone call from Boston, from Dr Chris Nowinski, Harvard graduate, Americas leading advocate of concussion awareness, co-founder of the Boston Brain Bank, the Concussion Legacy Foundation, author of Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis. Dr Nowinski appears before the American Congress, and the Canadian and British Parliament when concussion comes up. James, he knows more about concussion than you and I put together, by a factor of a thousand.
And while, like me, he was impressed by your obvious passion for the cause, he was frankly alarmed at some of the stuff you have come to believe, and are putting in the public domain. I asked him to put it in an email, and here is a burst:
“I have been following the conversation between you and James Graham. While I applaud any athlete who makes the effort to independently research concussions and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, I am extremely concerned about Mr Graham's confused understanding of the CTE literature. He claims, A study done in Winnipeg, Canada, found that about 35 per cent of the general population has CTE at autopsy if you look for it, and this was not related to concussion or head impacts. Unfortunately, this statement is incorrect on multiple levels, and raised concerns that James Graham has been misinformed.
“The Canadian study he references did NOT find about 35 per cent of the general population has CTE at autopsy if you look for it, and this was not related to concussion or head impacts. They found that 5/111 (4.5%) had mild CTE, and all five had a history of head trauma. What appears to have confused Graham or his advisor is that the authors said an additional 31% had what they termed "CTE-like" changes, a curious term, but one which means they did NOT have CTE.
“Instead, whomever is advising Mr Graham should have shared a 2015 study from the renowned Mayo Clinic, which reviewed their brain bank and found that among 198 control brains who had zero or one concussion but no contact sports history, ZERO had CTE, while a shocking 21 of 66 contact sports athletes (32%), most of whom never played professionally, met CTE criteria.”
“I know that there are prominent sports medicine doctors in Australia that disparage CTE as hoo-ha, and I am very concerned that active Australian athletes are receiving biased information on CTE that downplays its significance. It would not be fair to ask athletes to perform this dangerous job after being misinformed about CTE. In that scenario, they would not be able to provide informed consent.”
Back to me here, James. If your info is coming from within the rugby league world, and most particularly anyone at St George Illawarra, I suspect it potentially raises legal issues. It amazes me that the Dragons were happy to put your statement Read More – Source