Concussions have deservedly gotten most of the attention in efforts to reduce the risk of head injuries in sports.

But scientists increasingly think that hits too small to cause concussions also affect the brain, and that those effects add up. And it looks like some athletes may be more vulnerable than others.

Kevin Kane, President of the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, discusses Louisiana's burgeoning prison population.

Author Joe Henry talks about his book, "Furious Cool", a biography of comic legend Richard Pryor.

Dr. Diane Roberts Stoller on her book, "Coping With Concussion" 


The NFL season is in high gear — a fact that pleases the roughly 64 percent of Americans who watch football. The season rolls on despite the now constant news about concussions in the sport.

The recent TV documentary League of Denial and the book by the same name claim that for years the NFL had denied and covered up evidence linking football and brain damage. Is the concussion conversation challenging this country's deep love for the game?

The NFL adopted a new rule this season that makes it illegal for players to hit with the crown of their helmet. In other words, ramming your head into someone.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls in the 1970s, you could argue that no one played a bigger role than Mike Webster. Webster was the Steelers' center, snapping the ball to the quarterback, then waging war in the trenches, slamming his body and helmet into defensive players to halt their rush.

He was a local hero, which is why the city was stunned when his life fell apart. He lost all his money, and his marriage, and ended up spending nights in the bus terminal in Pittsburgh. Webster died of a heart attack, and on Sept. 28, 2002, came the autopsy.

Football is unique in that most players participate in only half the game — offense or defense.



A dark cloud hanging over the National Football League is a bit lighter today. There is a proposed settlement in a huge concussion lawsuit, brought by over 4,000 former players. The agreement was reached and announced yesterday, a week before the start of the new NFL season. If approved, the league will pay out $765 million to as many as 18,000 former players. NPR's Tom Goldman reports.