Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reiterated his belief that there is not yet enough evidence to prove a definitive link between football and head trauma, SI's Greg Bishop and Michael McKnight write in their special report “Football In America.”
“We’re drawing conclusions so far out in front of the facts,” he says. “I can live with that, as long as we understand that I’ve seen milk and red meat [debated] for the last 30 years, whether they’re good for you or not.”
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Jones has made similar comments in the past. He says he isn't opposed to efforts to make the game safer—he thinks making face masks smaller would be a good change to discourage tacklers from using their heads as weapons—but he thinks more research needs to be done before any drastic changes are made.
The 74-year-old football icon used an example from his own experience to assert that football might not have as much of an impact on brain health as some doctors and researchers think.
“I recently I had a CAT scan done at MD Anderson Cancer Center [in Houston], under an assumed name. Afterward, the radiologist said, 'I noticed your age. The reason I came down—and here he called me by my assumed name; he didn’t know who I was—was that you have the brain of a 40-year-old.' My other doctors were in the room; so was my wife. I’ve got some witnesses. The point is: I was a fullback and a pulling guard [at Arkansas]. I used my head all the time, and I played football a long time. And that had no impact.”
Jones also thinks that football is unfairly the focus of most discussions about head trauma in sports when other sports involve head-to-head hits as well.
“I’m going to carefully choose my words here,” Jones said. “The game of football is convenient to involve in the discussion of head injuries. Anybody who stops and thinks for a few minutes will realize that many other sports involve contact with athletes’ heads. Many other occupations do, as well. . . . I don’t become unduly alarmed. We don’t have the answers. There is no such thing as the answer.”
Experts have linked repeated blows to the head—including the collisions football players experience—to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Earlier this year, the NFL admitted for the first time that football is linked to brain damage.
The full story, which seeks to understand how Americans really feel about football, is the longest and most comprehensive football piece ever published by Sports Illustrated. Accompanying the story is a wide–ranging Q&A with Jones.