ESPN radio personality Danny Kanell doesn't seem to know much about the link between concussions and football. Or, if he does, he's not working very hard to present a compelling case.

But Kanell does know how to wield passion as a weapon while fanning the flames of partisan paranoia. He spent most of his Tuesday doing just that, launching into a Twitter rant that extended onto his ESPN Radio show.

Danny Kanell

The issue at hand: A so-called "war on football." The tirade was prompted by a New York Times op-ed by Bennet Omalu, the neuroscientist widely credited with discovering the trauma-related brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. In the article, Omalu called for contact football to be restricted only to individuals 18 years of age or older.

Based on Omalu's understanding, which entails decades of research and study into the effects of trauma on the brain, the scientist believes developing brains face too great a risk of long-term injury by being subjected to the assault of tackle football. The risks aren't only the concussions themselves, but also sub-concussive hits, which are rapidly being regarded as an equally serious threat to long-term cognitive health.

Kanell read this and reached one conclusion: Liberal America is trying to destroy the game of football.

Of course, Kanell doesn't offer much in the way of statistics and concrete facts to make his point. Instead, he fans the flames of paranoia and uses all-too-familiar political rhetoric to try and advocate for his point. Kanell, who played quarterback for Florida State and three NFL teams, even goes back-and-forth with members of the media who argue against his comments.

Another reporter explains to Kanell who the author of the editorial was.

That's just a sampling of the conversation Kanell has driven. But one tweet might be more interesting than all these others -- and demonstrate a disconnect he doesn't take the time to address:

That's right: Kanell's own father, a doctor for an NFL franchise, didn't want him playing football until he was 16. Kanell cites the danger of the sport and seems to separate concussions from those dangers, instead of acknowledging brain trauma as perhaps the most pressing health issue stemming from the sport.

Chris Nowinski, founder and head of the CTE Center in Boston, took issue with Kanell's perspective, and he went onto Russillo and Kanell show this afternoon to try and set Kanell straight. Afterward, he explained to ThePostGame that Kanell is struggling with a fundamental misunderstanding of the current safety conversation.

"I can understand from his side why it appears there's a war on football, but it's really a war on brain trauma," Nowinski says. "The league has reacted very poorly to the science of it. I think it's a war of, 'Who owns football?' Is it a game for the players, and by the players?"

Kanell does have one thing right: The medical science is not entirely conclusive. Even Steve Almond, the author of Against Football, acknowledged that. But Kanell is doing a disservice by portraying the existing research as in conflict with one another. The current body of information is small, but it is very consistent.

"It's all headed in one direction -- the NFL's own actuaries know that," Almond says. "The mentality is the same as the for profit demagogues who shout about the 'War on Christmas.' It's white privileged men, for the most part, who whine like babies because someone dares to apply a functioning conscience to their personal habits, a kind of entitlement psychosis that manages to parade whiny self-victimization in the robes of moral heroism.

CTE in NFL vets


Mike Webster #52

As a player, Mike Webster was an all-time great, earning nine Pro Bowl selections and winning four Super Bowls with the Steelers. In 1997, Webster was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Mike Webster #52

Unfortunately, Webster's post-football life was troubled. He was afflicted by amnesia, depression and dementia in his later years, many of which he spent homeless despite having relatives willing to house him. After his death in 2002, he became the first NFL veteran diagnosed with CTE.


Forrest Blue #75

As an offensive lineman, Forrest Blue was a four-time All-Pro. His eleven-year NFL career was split between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts. Blue died in 2011 in an assisted care facility, after which he was diagnosed with CTE.


Lew Carpenter #30

Lew Carpenter made a 47-year career out of football. After playing at the University of Arkansas the running back spent 10 years playing for the Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. He retired from coaching in 1996 due to health reasons and died in 2010, agreeing to donate his brain to science.


Lou Creekmur #76

An eight-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman, Lou Creekmur suffered from a 30-year decline in mental health leading up to his death in 2009. He was 82.


Shane Dronett #99

After a 10-year career in the NFL, defensive lineman Shane Dronett experienced significant cognitive troubles in 2006. He suffered from confusion, paranoia, and bouts of rage. In 2009, he picked up a gun and confronted his wife, who fled. In her absence, Dronett fatally shot himself. He was 38.


Dave Duerson #26

In 11 NFL seasons, Duerson was a four-time Pro-Bowler and the 1987 NFL man of the year. In 2011, he shot himself in the chest and died. Duerson had suspected something regarding his mental health: just before shooting himself, he texted his family asking them to donate his brain to science.


Ray Easterling #32

An eight-year veteran who spent his entire career with the Atlanta Falcons, Ray Easterling was one of the veterans to add his name to a federal lawsuit against the NFL regarding concussions. In April 2012, he fatally shot himself, allegedly due to the worsening of his clinical depression and the deterioration of his cognitive functioning.


Cookie Gilchrist #2

Between the CFL and the AFL, Cookie Gilchrist earned nine All-Star bids. The running back was also a two-time AFL rushing champion. After his playing career, Gilchrist displayed erratic and sometimes angry behavior, particularly to those he had worked with in his playing days. He died in 2011 and was diagnosed with advanced CTE.


John Grimsley #59

A 10-year NFL veteran, Grimsley is best known for making the Pro Bowl in 1988. In 2008, he died of an apparent accidental gunshot wound, after which he was diagnosed with CTE.


Chris Henry #15

Henry's CTE diagnosis was a breakthrough that brightened the spotlight on football's dangers. After several run-ins with the law, Henry died in 2009 from a motor vehicle accident. An autopsy revealed that Henry had CTE at just 26 years old. He was the first still-active NFL player to be diagnosed with the condition.T


Terry Long #74

Long was a consistent starter for the Steelers from 1984 until his retirement in 1991. That same year, Long tested positive for steroids and attempted suicide. He eventually killed himself in 2005 by drinking antifreeze.


John Mackey #88

A five-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL champion, John Mackey was only the second tight end ever admitted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After his playing days, Mackey was afflicted with dementia, and his condition worsened until he required full-time care in an assisted living facility. He died in 2011.


John Mackey #88

Since John's death, his wife, Sylvia Mackey, has become a powerful advocate for NFL veterans and continues to push the NFL to change through her activism and legal work.


Ollie Matson #33

In addition to having a 14-year NFL career, Ollie Matson also won two medals at the 1952 Olympics. He died in 2011 from complications from dementia and was later diagnosed with CTE.


Tom McHale #73

A bruising defensive end with an Ivy League education, Tom McHale played in the NFL from 1987 to 1995. He died in 2008 from an accidental drug overdose. His widow now works for the Boston University CTE Center as a family relations liason.


Junior Seau #55

Perhaps the most accomplished player to be diagnosed with CTE, Junior Seau was a 12-time Pro Bowler, the 1994 AFC Player of the Year, and a member of the NFL 1990s All-Decade team.


Junior Seau #55

In May 2012, Seau was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. While never diagnosed with a concussion during his playing career, Seau's wife reported that he did admit to experiencing several. The linebacker also experienced insomnia for years leading up to his death.


Justin Strzelczyk #73

As an offensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Strzelczyk's career was cut short by his erratic off-field behavior and legal troubles. Upon his death in a high-speed police chase in 2004, alcohol and drugs were initially blamed. An autopsy revealed that the lineman had suffered brain damage.


Andre Waters #20

During his 12-year NFL career, Andre Waters earned a reputation as one of the hardest hitters in the NFL. Unfortunately, Waters wound up shooting himself in the head in 2006. An autopsy discovered brain damage sustained during his playing days.


Jovan Belcher #59

A young, promising NFL linebacker, Jovan Belcher killed himself in a murder-suicide in December 2012. After killing his girlfriend, Belcher drove to the Kansas City Chiefs' practice facility and shot himself with a handgun in the parking lot.


Jovan Belcher #59

After Belcher's death, an autopsy diagnosed CTE in the 25-year-old.

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"It's just blind on every level. And the great pity of this nation is that this guy is never going to get challenged on any of it."

The conflict, in other words, is that Kanell's passion for football is seeming to override his ability to think rationally about the issues. His attempt to politicize the issue fell flat. As Deitsch noted on Twitter, a wide range of media outlets from across the perceived political spectrum have all covered the issue in depth.

More recently, research and anecdotal evidence have shown that the risks of brain traumas may extend to ages and levels of play we didn't initially anticipate. The focus on early research was that crushing concussions of NFL players were the driving force behind CTE. Now, it seems likely that sub-concussive hits at the high school level and below -- young children just starting to learn the game -- are suffering from the cumulative effects of repeating head strikes during tackle games.

If that's true -- and the research is very strongly suggesting it is -- then it introduces an entirely new moral crisis, in which the future mental health of young football players is being compromised before they're even old enough to understand the risks.

The evidence strongly suggests that children of the past, and undoubtedly children of the future, have been fated to future memory loss, emotional instability, depression, dementia and a higher risk of suicide, before they're old enough to drive a car. All because of playing football.

Kanell wants to look the other way. He doesn't say this, of course, but by aggressively opposing the world's leaders on this relatively new, complicated subject, he is implicitly sabotaging any effort to understand and respond to the risks football poses to our society.

This isn't a political issue. Don't let Danny Kanell turn it into one.

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