Football, Violence, and Troy Aikman’s Concussion Story: League of Denial (Part 2 of 9) | FRONTLINE

Football, Violence, and Troy Aikman’s Concussion Story: League of Denial (Part 2 of 9) | FRONTLINE

– People like the violence
of it. – Oh! – You watch
a pro football game… – He’ll get up. – …and naturally, the biggest
cheers are for the touchdowns, but the second-biggest cheers
are for a nasty hit. – Stand by, all cameras. – Ready for slow motion… NARRATOR: The first broadcast
of Monday Night Football in 1970 marked a turning point
in the game’s popularity and its revenues. – Take tape. (upbeat music playing) – I think the NFL
has done an incredible job at marketing itself and
turning itself into a spectacle, a sort of cultural part
of our lives. (lively music continues) – It fit the personality
of society that became more violent,
that became faster, wanted instant gratification. – O.J. Simpson gets the call. Look out! – Football, from the opening
kickoff, it’s full go. – What a football player! (upbeat music playing) NARRATOR:
The Monday night games were always among the highest
rated television broadcasts. – Look out! – Monday Night Football,
it’s not just for football fans. – Speaking of color
commentators… – It became
an entertainment show. – Vivid picturization
of the excitement. Number one in the nation. – It became a happening. – ♪ Are you ready
for some football? ♪ ♪ A Monday night invasion… ♪ NARRATOR: The glory
and the violence of football was beamed into tens of millions
of American living rooms during primetime. – ♪ Here come the hits,
the bangs ♪ ♪ The blocks
and the spikes ♪ ♪ ‘Cause all my rowdy friends
drop in on Monday night. ♪ – People like the violence
of it. – Oh! – You watch
a pro football game… – He’ll get up. – …and naturally, the biggest
cheers are for the touchdowns, but the second-biggest cheers
are for a nasty hit. (groaning) – I describe it as the moment
of impact, the moment when you actually
have to go tackle somebody. It’s really a game of will – The actual logo
of Monday Night Football, it showed helmets
hitting together. (explosion) And it became part
of the popular jargon, you know? “He knocked him silly,
he knocked him to the moon.” Set the tone! Knock him out, knock him out! Let’s go! – There is no question
the NFL marketed that violence. – That’s what we love
about the game. – When you talk about
big-hitting safeties, the Eagles’ Brian Dawkins
always emerges. – We gonna dominate this thing. Respect is not given,
it is earned! – What the NFL would do was they would market tapes
“Crash Course,” “Moment of Impact,”
“Search and Destroy,” in the context of describing
the brutal nature of the violence of the NFL. NARRATOR: But away
from the glamorized hits, there was a darker side. Superagent Leigh Steinberg
saw it firsthand. – I watched athletes
I represented play with collapsed lungs. I watched them completely
fight with doctors at every time to get into the game. I watched players deceive
coaches on the sidelines when they were injured
and run back into a game. NARRATOR:
The inspiration for the movie sports agent
Jerry Maguire, Steinberg was a powerhouse
alongside the new NFL. – He was very much a creature of this expanding juggernaut
of the NFL. He ends up at one point representing 21 quarterbacks
in the NFL, 21 starting quarterbacks
in the NFL one year. NARRATOR:
In the early 1990s, Steinberg represented
one of football’s top stars: Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman. – Second and 14, passing down,
coming up for Aikman again… NARRATOR: In 1994,
during the NFC championship, Aikman took a knee to the head. – Stubblefield was there first. – Troy Aikman took a knee
to the head… – You see it right here. It’s Dennis Brown coming in, you see the knee right there,
knee right on his helmet. NARRATOR: Aikman’s concussion
was bad enough that he could not return
to the game. Aikman was taken
to a local hospital. – I went to visit Troy, who was sitting in a darkened
hospital room all alone. – The room is dark because Aikman can’t even stand
looking into the light. It’s this sort of surreal scene
where the city is celebrating and the quarterback
who won the game is in the hospital
with his agent. – He looked at me and he said,
“Leigh, where am I?” And I said,
“Well, you’re in the hospital.” And he said,
“Well, why am I here?” And I said, “Because you
suffered a concussion today.” And he said,
“Well, who did we play?” And I said, “The 49ers.” And he said, “Did we win?” “Yes, you won.” “Did I play well?” “Yes, you played well.” “And so what’s that mean?” “It means you’re going
to the Super Bowl.” – Five minutes later,
they’re sitting there, they’re continuing to hang out, and Aikman suddenly turns
to Steinberg and says, “What am I doing here?” And then next thing you know,
they are reliving this conversation they’d had
five minutes earlier. – For a minute,
I thought he was joking. And I went through the same
sequence of answers again. And his face brightened
and we celebrated again. Maybe ten minutes passed. And he looked at me
with the same puzzled expression and asked the same sequence
of questions. It terrified me to see
how tender the bond was between sentient consciousness and potential dementia
and confusion was. – “Mild TBIs
in professional football “are not serious injuries. “Return to play does not involve
a significant risk of a second injury…” – Those initial studies
from the NFL were notorious.

87 comments on “Football, Violence, and Troy Aikman’s Concussion Story: League of Denial (Part 2 of 9) | FRONTLINE

  1. OopzyDayzy Post author

    the Troy Aikman part of that is so close to what my mom went through from her aneurysm/ stroke episode (double whammy, no half-asses in my family)
    why am i in the hospital? we think you had a stroke and an aneurysm. [shock and fear, she knew that was very bad news] a few minutes later, same thing. few minutes later, same thing. my dad had to leave the room, but i sat and kept telling her what had happened. its very scary. the brain is a fragile thing. 

  2. MK Dallas Post author

    I used to think football players were overpaid.  Now I understand why they get what they can.

  3. Robert Acosta Post author

    The political BULLSHIT comes down very similar to the 30 for 30 SMU Pony Excess and the same thing is money. And at the front of this black people being stupids convicts with the occasional white person, the game declining in talent and smart players and the last of the real good players/ good and bad people( but good enough on the field that could they could get away with playing the game right  way with good results).

  4. Robert Acosta Post author

    The decline is simple look at the NCAA and blame their stupid college football programs and you will see the decline of NFL right in front of your face.

  5. james lachs Post author

    I'm uneasy and concerned about the concussion issue but as long as football players are paid well, there will be plenty of them. That's just life. I don't like to see people hurt but I don't like being told what to do, or not do, even more. Your body; your choice, in my humble opinion.

  6. Damian Fowler Post author

    Fuuuck,,,  I've lived through just that, a number of times, on the Football field, with soooo many games, just a blank…  and so many randome occasions, ever since…!   I've learnt that I can't overcome this, but have had to learn to account for it and just try to manage and live. in spite of it – so often sliding 'out' of the situation, where I have to try and explain myself and resenting that I have to do so…  ashamed, though I really know I ought not be…! Can you possibly imagine, having started the self same conversation, from moments earlier… and then trying to retain some form of credibility and just hope, that casually brushing the issue away, hopefully into obscurity, is hopefully gonna save me the 'Please Explain', sometime down the track, in a bid to save your job…

  7. Léon Noël Post author

    I wonder if the helmets kind of help dehumanize the violence, because you can't see their face.

    Like when I watch soccer and players bang heads and lay on the ground, it gives me chills. I remember watching one player go into the fencing response and my heart dropped, the players turned him sideways so he wouldn't choke on his tongue, and the camera quickly cut away.

    However, maybe not, since Rugby's really violent as well. I had to stop watching when I saw one dude with no front teeth with streams of blood drip from his forehead to his neck carry on like it was nothing.

  8. Beefaroni Post author

    Leigh Steinberg probably has never had a paper cut in his life yet he profited handsomely off of these players. Although agents are necessary liaisons between players and greedy owners, they have always been profiteers and parasites in the game. Maybe Leigh should have advised ole Troy to hang em up after that hospital encounter. I can only assume that he didn't. Such advice would put a dent in Leigh's income…..

  9. slater1ist Post author

    these helmets are stronger than motorcycle helmets!  to knock off a helmet off a player implies that this dude is getting hit by a motorcycle everytime there's a connection.

  10. slater1ist Post author

    the biggest bad guy in football is the FAN   short for FANATIC.  the fans quit watching the advertising dollars disappear the NFL disappears.  its that simple.

  11. Photoshopskillz Post author

    We have to understand, these awesome NFL players like Aikman are build different than you or me. Even as their athletic bodies are huge and massive, they are still prone to brain injury of this level. 10 Minutes later after asking the same questions -Airman: "What am i doing here?" That's scary…

  12. Betsy Collins Post author

    I have observed among students that while it is not ever acceptable to roughhouse at school, many of those students who play contact sports in local little leagues have the hardest time understanding that it is not safe to tackle, not okay to put their hands on other students forcefully in class, at recess, etc. I suppose it can be quite bewildering to them to spend Monday through Friday in a class, trying to exercise restraint, when at all the practices and games, people are cheering you on to clobber players on the other team. No matter how much you discipline them about it at school, many of these youngsters way too often cannot remember to refrain from putting their hands and other body parts on their classmates at school. And there are parents out there, who will not appreciate it when your all-star little Junior chest bumps, tackles, or plays too roughly with their child and it results in the injury of their child.

  13. Jdub14000 Post author

    A professional wrestler Buh Buh Dudley had a cu
    concussion during a match. When they took him to the hospital to be evaluated he ask about his mother. A fellow wrestler told him that his mom passed away two years ago. He started crying uncontrollably. Then he asked the same question, the wrestler told him the answer. He started crying uncontrollably again. Wow…

  14. Orlando Tocano Post author

    And still Troy played and won the Super Bowl against the Bills in Atlanta two weeks later??? Fuck, no wonder we used to nickname him RoboQB!!

  15. Piroca Post author

    I love football , but my son will not play it, there are other sports as fun as football and more healthier, baseball, soccer, basketball, volleyball etc

  16. Royal Ace Post author

    NFL players needs to get pay more. It's tough to see things like CTE occurring but the love for football runs deep in America. Shutting down the NFL isn't an option. The best way is maybe developed more advance gears & equipment that provides the state of the art protection for players, implementing rules & regulations to help lessen the violence and make the game safer for players, and teaching players to tackle using proper form etc.

    The NFL won't be closing their doors anytime soon. But hopefully with more understanding, research & studies on the issue would provide many new solutions that can change the game for the better. The one thing that I do find sad is seeing the US president criticizing the NFL for implementing rules to make it safer for the players…

  17. Trenton Post author

    It is simple, if you don't like football, don't watch it. If you don't want your kids to play football, then don't let them. But don't advocate that they should 'ban' football because of CTE or other health risks. Boxing, Kickboxing, MMA, Hockey, and pretty much any contact sport is gonna have risks for head trauma. Should we ban every sport where athletes take shots to the head? If so, at least you'd be consistent. To tackle just the NFL for this is issue is unfair to players and fans who love the game. Most NFL players are aware of the risk, and are willing to take it. So let them be.

  18. LeafVillage UchihaClan Post author

    Stop saying we the fans like the “violence” of the game. That’s fucken idiotic. Football is an exciting sport to watch. The catch, run, physicality and strategy of the game is entertaining. Injuries and CTE is not wished upon any player. We as fans understand of the injuries and would really wish less of it. STOP SAYING WE LOVE THE VIOLENCE

  19. Caroline Paquier Post author

    CTE is the leading cause of disability and death in football. Inform yourself. Who honestly wants THIS for their son?

  20. Alan Dennis Post author

    The helmet does nothing to protect the brain from impacting the inside of the skull. In fact,it can make it worse. People gain an unconscious sense of security and indestructibility when they put on a football helmet. And that leads to harder hits and leading hits with the head. All those pads make the game faster and harder hitting. But they also protect the body from even more damage. What’s the solution then? Take contact out of this game. It’s a hard truth, as I have always loved football, but we need to be aware of the damage this sport causes to people’s brains.

  21. Humzah Hassan Post author

    There is a solution to decrease risk. First take away pads and helmets and ban any tackle above the hip so even if u get trucked u can fall and catch urself vs whiplash. Ban hits to players in the air and look to get rid of blindside hits

  22. SloppeyJoe 6D9 Post author

    Big hits don’t fuck You long term. It’s the poor hogs banging heads every play.

  23. Mike Youngblood Post author

    I agree that the NFL executives & owners did very fucked up and corrupt things to hide CTE and market the violence of football, but every player knew they were signing up for some sort of long-term health effects by playing football, especially those who played it for 15+ years like Mike Webster and Junior Seau. Kickers, Punters, and some QBs are the only players who should play for longer than 10 years in my opinion.

  24. Tikoa Kinney Post author

    NFL needs to have guaranteed contracts period this guys are in pain constantly nfl contacts are cutthroat once you get hurt they try to waive yoy

  25. robert charpentier Post author

    I have NEVER applauded a "nasty hit" on a player. Instead I and millions of fans like me have cringed at what might have happened to a player who gets slammed down. StocktonRob

  26. Sword Arm Post author

    I definitely believe the Aikman story. I read an article about one of the Cowboys trainers that day against SF that evaluated him for a concussion on the sideline. They asked him where he was and what team he played for.

    Aikman answered that he was in the Oklahoma state high school championship and he was playing quarterback for the Henryetta Fighting Hens. That knee knocked Aikman's brain into the 1980s. He thought he was in high school. Scary stuff.

  27. cozce Post author

    people give the nfl shit but let boxing and the UFC still be aloud. the literal goal of boxing and the UFC is to knock the opponent out

  28. cowboysfan782008 Post author

    Cops and firemen can get killed, and football players and boxers, especially boxers can get their heads wacked a lot of times, it comes with the territory.  When I was in HS in the early/mid 80s many of the stoner types had the option of taking extra auto and wood shop classes, and that's what they did, and went on to be mechanics, plumbers, etc.  I get the point here but we are not all meant to go to College and look at the result of our soft, "politically correct" society.  There's just as much if not more racism, (or so you hear there is), and half the milens have their heads so far up their anus's that there's corn stuck in their teeth.  We are not making this Country better by coddling everyone and telling our young ppl that their feelings are what matter.  If you need a safe space then pull the covers over your head and stay there until you die, or just man the fk up, and understand that your great grand parents and the ppl before them had it a hell of a lot tougher, so stop feeling sorry for yourself!

  29. Tyler Fernbach Post author

    They choose to play, they get paid millions, I feel bad they get injured but nobody is forcing them to play :/

  30. North Pole-emics Post author

    My kids will NEVER play football. Period. (p.s. Brett Favre agrees! Watch HIS interview….and Bob Proberts…..and Sean O'Sullivan (Canadian boxer) and Muhammad Ali….the evidence is in..CTE happens to almost EVERY person who receives repeated head and brain trauma…it is cumulative…not just concussions but blows to the head. There is no avoiding it other than not playing, or not fighting.

  31. mebeingU2 Post author

    The Aikman repeated questions revelation is chilling. It's a sad commentary about the sports fan and the desire for the "excitement " of the game when you realize the implications to the players.

  32. Mary L Roberts Post author

    I have loved football for many years.. the great plays and the touchdowns yes.. the hits and tackles.. no …cause you never know if it's gonna a be a players last. The sound alone of them always makes me cringe. 🙁

  33. New Nana Post author

    My nephew has the same kind of injury from hitting the back of a truck while riding a moped that he wasn’t supposed to be riding on. Kept asking the same question over and over and over again. “What Happened “?? For 24 hours.

  34. GetFuckedUTube1 Post author

    Gee…Frontline, only 20 years late…what else is new. Frontline use to be something…now it is just main stream garbage.

  35. gman hirt Post author

    Risks in all jobs
    It’s all about choices
    Just most jobs don’t get movies or documentaries about the dangers and side effects,,
    These nfl players are lucky in that way,,

  36. cjr1881 Post author

    I am not saying at all that concussions do no relate to brain damage. I think they definitely can. But this test that everyone has seemed to have adopted as the truth that CTE is present is bullshit. They haven’t tested people that don’t even play football. That shit is probably present in most brains. There is no science at all to it. I have not heard of them trying to get brains from ordinary people. That is no study at all. There is no baseline whatsoever.

  37. Old Derrickhand Post author

    I have a different thought. What would happen if football was played without helmets and pads? There are a lot of hits that wouldn't be made if there were no helmets and pads. You sure wouldn't lead with your head if you didn't have a helmet. Better tackling fundamentals would have to occur also.

  38. rockinrowdyjimmyd Post author

    Well if the stupid asses didn't play on concrete. I bet they would cut concussions by 80 percent

  39. Dan Poore Post author

    you know what is so interesting is his friend and his agent from this story never told him STOP you brain is being ruined… Oh know becaise he is the typicla parasite making money off of him

  40. Costa Zambaras Post author

    Leigh Steinberg is so full of shit. What a fkn scumbag. He acts so holier than thou when he speaks about how shocked and concerned he was with that conversation with Aikman. But if he was so concerned, why did he continue to represent players as their agent?? What piece of shit he is. That’s probably why he became a drunk. His ambition and actual nature as a man was so hypocritical and seedy that he had to numb his guilt and shame from being a fkn sellout who continued to profit significantly from a game he believed to be dangerous for people he claimed to care about. He’s just as bad as any NFL employee who covered it up because he knew it was incredibly dangerous for players but he did it anyway. And now he wants to blow the fkn whistle because his alcoholism took away his job? Foh you piece of shit

  41. goober pea Post author

    During a play from scrimmage, 3 ppl usually touch the ball. What are the other 19 other ppl, on the field, supposed to do? Block for person with ball or stop person with ball.

  42. Jose Luis Garcia Post author

    El futbol americano el box el hokie sobre hielo y otros deportes de contacto Están Infectados de ETC ¿deberían eliminarse de la faz de la tierra?

  43. chris collin Post author


  44. 25mfd Post author

    that aikman story… pretty scary stuff… the claim is that these guys hitting each other is like getting into a low speed car crash… on EVERY play

  45. theshadowtalks Post author

    This is just BS! Millionaire players complaining about a vocational choice. How about us Ham and Eggers who put in 40 years in the blue collar world with numerous violent work related injuries. Ever worked on a oil rig or laid brick. I really feel bad for the NFL guys but do like us. Shut up and dance!

  46. james lachs Post author

    Troy A. is now two years older than Mike W. when he died. I assume he's got great genetics to be doing so well after the many terrible hits he took. Maybe some guys get crushed for years and can luck out and avoid CTE. My father recently fell and got a serious concussion. Seeing his behavior and confusion was truly an awful experience. We still understand so little about the brain. We need new meds. for brain diseases, especially the ones that attack the elderly. I've seen dementia up close and I'd much rather be dead that have it.

  47. Colts fan4 Life Post author

    As a colts fan I saw Peyton Manning patent the move of always throwing himself to the ground when there’s even a chance he could get sacked.. I kind of didn’t understand that growing up. I do now that I see Peyton living a normal happy life after football

  48. Learn Stuff Post author

    I HATE the violence in football. I love the athleticism, skill, strategy, teamwork and finesse. It's a chess match, it's a dance, but with braun and raw speed and power. I could do without the brutality. ESPECIALLY given the concussions and brain damage. i think a lot of other people would agree with me.

  49. bandpassmess Post author

    I remember getting hit in the head by a transmission slipping off a carjack .
    I can’t remember putting it back together.
    What I do was vomiting going into a dark and going to sleep , ever since I can hardly read as well as I use to , everyday I can only stand dark rooms .
    I had this happen in late 80s had no idea what a concussion was .
    I can only imagine being football player and going back again and again .


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