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.

"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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