Category Archives: History of Brain Injury

AMA Doctors Favored Football in Historic Debates

By Matt Chaney, for

Posted Tuesday, May 7, 2019

I.  Introduction

II. AMA Confronts Brutal Football, Condemns Boys Game

III. JAMA Editor is Heavyweight of Football Debate

IV. Fishbein Sells Safer Football, Safer Cigarettes for AMA

V.  Conclusion

Copyright ©2019 for original content and historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney, Four Walls Publishing

American medical organizations are prone to fumble the issue of tackle football, to chop-block Hippocratic Oath, by shielding the injurious game from criticism and accountability—including for brain damage of players.

The American Medical Association was ally of King Football through recurring controversies of the 20th century. JAMA, prestigious journal of the AMA, protected the collision sport in debates from the Depression Era through Vietnam War.

During the 1950s and ’60s, AMA publications and rhetoric were overrun with authors and theorists of sports medicine. Their safety claims proved critical in preserving youth football from abolition.

Football friendliness of the AMA turned hypocritical in the 1980s, blatantly exposed. JAMA editor Dr. George D. Lundberg called for a ban on boxing, citing brain trauma, while simultaneously deeming the gridiron acceptable, including for juveniles. Lundberg, a closet football fan, argued that boxers intentionally inflicted TBI while gridiron harm was incidental, free of malicious intent.

The AMA convention backed Lundberg as critics responded from America and abroad.

“Their position is almost laughable,” Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, boxing physician and TV commentator, said in 1985. “I think people need to remember a few things about the AMA. It represents less than 50 percent of doctors in the country. It’s not a scientific [research] group. It’s a politically oriented lobbying group.”

“If the group really cared about safety in athletics, it would have picked on other sports—football, for starters… They picked on a flea when there are some real elephants out there.”

“The only problem the AMA encounters in this mission is one of discrimination,” stated Melvin Durslag, news columnist. “If, in the interest of life and health, it asks for the abolition of boxing, how can it explain auto racing and football?”

“In [an NFL] game the other day between Dallas and Philadelphia, Tony Dorsett was rammed head-on by a tackler clad in the conventional helmet of iron-like plastic. Tony was knocked colder than Duluth, Minnesota. Does the AMA feel this was helpful to his brain?”

Lundberg and AMA associates clung to their position into the 2000s, until overwhelmed by emerging evidence of brain damage in football players, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or “CTE.” Lundberg came to acknowledge mistakes, sort of.

“Over the years, many physicians have asked me why I was so avid in my condemnation of boxing and completely quiet about the hazards of American football,” Lundberg commented for in 2016. “After all, blows to the head damage the brain, whatever the sport and whether or not the person delivering the blow is paid. I have always considered the moral difference between boxing and football to be stark.”

“Until today, I have never answered those critics. I am biased. I have been in love with American football at least since Harry Gilmer led Alabama’s Crimson Tide to a 34-14 victory over the University of Southern California in the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1946… I never stopped loving the Tide. I was a skinny kid but I was fast and I could catch any ball thrown near me. Three broken arms later, I gave up playing.”

“So, my huge bias delayed confessing reality,” Lundberg continued. “Football blows to the head damage the brain. We now have so much evidence, both clinical and, especially, from autopsies… Just as in boxing, it is not only the knockout-defined concussions but the multiple, repetitive sub-concussive blows that tear small blood vessels and brain fibers each time the movable brain bounces around inside the rigid skull.”

Dr. Lundberg still believed boxing should be outlawed but amended his stance to endorse banning football for ages 12 and under. The former JAMA editor also still believed football officials, their repetitive pledge to devise safe contact sport.

II. AMA Confronts Brutal Football, Condemns Boys Game

By turn of the 20th century, football advocates had their talking points together for recurring debate over field brutality. In 1900, football’s latest “reform,” officials touted new rules, modern equipment, medical supervision, and trained coaches to instill “proper tackling.”

Officials and associates promised “safe football” would finally materialize, fulfilling the stated mission since 1887. They said common transportation killed more than the gridiron, citing accidents of horsepower, bicycles, boats and railroads.

Self-anointed “football experts” dismissed publicized death counts as inaccurate and exaggerated by newsmen. The experts conducted their own surveys and announced more research was needed, from in-house, to determine true risk and outcome of playing fields.

Football policymakers had stock claims for preventing “concussion of the brain,” rampant in their forwarding-colliding sport. Traumatic insanity of head blows, linked postmortem to microscopic hemorrhages of brain tissue, wrought mental disorders recognized in clinical literature. Some families and doctors, communicating in public, believed traumatic brain injury had spurred violence and suicide in their athletes of football and boxing.

To quell concern, football coaches and trainers hawked new helmets, their creations of patent leather and pneumatic rubber. Headgear was trial-tested on players, and promotional text for a leading model, 1900, stated: “The head harness was formerly of felt, but of late years a solid leather headpiece has been invented. It is made of the heaviest English oak-tanned leather… This headgear is ventilated and is made with a double crown to protect the entire top of the head; it breaks the force of any blow received.”

Personnel pledged “open play” and rules enforcement would eliminate cerebral concussion. The 10-man flying wedge had been banned years ago, they reminded, and smaller “mass” formations were under control.

Officials touted “low tackling” for headless hitting, teaching players to strike with shoulder and chest, eyes up, to avoid cranium shots. “The best way to learn tackling is with a dummy with head thrown to one side. That saves your head,” said Dr. R.C. Armstrong, coach-physician in Brooklyn, 1899.

Football advocates from all walks rallied for game preservation. They said criticism was groundless, repetitive, heard from jealous wimps with no grasp of manly sport.

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, fervent football fan, railed against game adversaries. The rising politician and Harvard alum vowed his sons would play football and build character from injury experience. Roosevelt enjoyed the grandstanding, such as cheering from sidelines at games, highly visible, fist-pumping like a player he wasn’t in college. Shrewdly, Roosevelt reaped political capital in votes and favors, because millions loved football like him.

Anybody could claim anything, really, in defense of beloved football. Hardly anyone tracked the reform phases and failures in some 25 years of American blood-letting. Indeed, headless contact had been tried for a decade already, fixing nothing, along with more theoretical concepts.

Football spectacle was a national institution, economically, socially and ideologically. Casualties were acceptable price for the preferred entertainment, and many if not most physicians cared nothing of “football hurts.” Many had played the game.

In 1900 JAMA endorsed the football word of leaders like Walter Camp, who argued brutal play was isolated and “unsupervised,” existing only at small schools, clubs and sandlots. The AMA Journal qualified university football as milder than “gladiatorial combat” and poked at naysayers, editorializing: “Aside from its apparent dangers, which are probably less real than might be thought, it has its merits as an athletic exercise, and evidently demands more than mere muscle.”

“There is a chance for more thorough research into the effects of football on [human physiology],” JAMA stated, “but so far as the evidence is in, the particular charges made seem hardly justified.”

Football carnage continued, predictably, including for elite programs like the Yale juggernaut of Camp. Emergency response and trauma care were primitive, useless to save victims of severe brain bleed or spinal dislocation, among football damages. Infection ravaged injured athletes in this era before penicillin antibiotics. Football death occurred of bone fracture, organ trauma and skin laceration, sometimes years after mishap, for lack of treatment.

Today’s football by comparison—some five million players, majority juvenile—produces tens of thousands of bone fractures annually. Higher numbers of variously wounded enter surgery. Incidents of brain trauma, largely undiagnosed, likely reach millions. The contemporary American gridiron would kill and maim like warfare, massively, if relying on medicine of a century ago.

In 1902 JAMA staffers collected football reports and analyzed casualties. “Thus far the returns give 12 deaths, several fatally injured and over eighty seriously injured,” editors announced in December. “Among the serious casualties of the game this year we have fractured skulls, injured spines, brain injuries resulting in insanity, as well as broken legs, ribs, collar-bones, etc. To be a cripple or lunatic for life is paying high for athletic emulation.”

The AMA editors weren’t condemning football itself, just human factors. JAMA called for officials to revise rules, once again, and to ensure enforcement by field referees. Editors opined “it would seem that something might be done by those in charge of college athletics at least, to modify the roughness of the game and somewhat reduce its risks… brutality is utterly needless and deserves the severest condemnation and consign punishment.”

But brutality was not incidental of head-on football, only inherent. Danger element could not be attributed to inept rules, bad technique, poor coaching and medical response. Vicious hits and harm were DNA of the sport, explicitly. “It is a mere gladiatorial combat; it is brutal throughout,” said Karl Brill, Harvard All-American tackle who quit football. “When you are opposed to a strong man you have got to get the better of him by violence.”

“I fail to see where the gray matter in a man’s head is exercised at all, nor am I able to see how football is the intricate game some proclaim it to be. Neither do I see how the game can be reformed or remedied.”

JAMA editors detected no safe football in 1903 and expressed chagrin for officials. “The fatalities and injuries… were probably not more numerous or more grave than in recent years,” the journal editorialized. “While we do not wish to be considered as opposing legitimate athletic sports, we believe that in this particular game the human wreckage far outweighs the good resulting from three or four months of athletic exercise and training.”

JAMA editors still hadn’t given up on football. They commended the game’s instilling campus pride and spirit, along with “honest rivalry in manly sports and athletic exercises.” The Journal backed President Roosevelt in 1905,  who blamed brutality on “dirty” players and lousy referees, for his effort to cleanse football.  The “open game” was Roosevelt’s solution, and scores of colleges jumped the bandwagon, trumpeting presidential reform and “safer football.” This faction, led by Teddy’s alma mater Harvard, was merely bureaucracy to mushroom, become known as the National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA.

“President Roosevelt is to be congratulated,” JAMA editors declared. “It was his vigorous protest and personal intervention which, more than anything else, brought the football rules committee to its senses.”

Optimism flattened in 1907. The Roosevelt reform hadn’t reduced risk of football, but did inspire scary colliding in open field, injurious as mass scrums. Critics howled, charging folly for so-called Debrutalized Football. “The revised rules of the game have not fulfilled the hopes of the framers… speed and combination plays have proved almost as hazardous,” observed a newspaper scribe. “The ‘reformed’ game has been abruptly ended in smaller cities in which players have been seriously injured or killed.”

Roosevelt blamed college leaders and referees for failing to stiffen code against “unnecessary roughness.” The president insisted “there is no real need for considering the question of the abolition of the game.” He said malicious players were culprit, not wholesome collision football, although he wished it “less homicidal.”

The AMA was souring on hocus-pocus about reforming football. “It was hoped that the open game, introduced by changes in the rules, would take away much of the stigma that has attached to the sport because of accidents, but that hope has proved illusory,” JAMA editorialized. “The question that naturally arises is whether the game is worth the candle.”

Tackle football wasn’t worth it for boys, said critics who denounced “junior” play emerging at schools, clubs and sandlots. The anti-movement included college coaches and players who disavowed boys football—and doctors of the American Medical Association, chirping up from hinterland offices to organization headquarters.

The AMA and its Journal comprised the most powerful entity in U.S. medicine, and likewise stood suspect for heavy handedness in health and trade. The curious relationship with gory football lent credence to allegations.

AMA honchos, editors among them, ruled agenda-setting, finances, and group communication from the non-profit’s headquarters in Chicago. The setup smelled like administrative “tyranny” to Kenneth W. Millican, who critiqued medical industry in 1906.

The AMA posed “a formidable body” in national membership and societal impact, Millican observed for Medical Record. “It can be powerful for good or for evil; in which direction its influence will be cast will depend entirely upon the character of the few men who from time to time must inevitably control its destiny.”

Millican noted, or warned, that a handful of officials could act in defiance of AMA thousands. “Issues will crop up in which the few… will dictate one course, while the majority will prefer another.”

Junior football didn’t divide the association, at least not in 1907. That December the AMA Journal, under editor Dr. George H. Simmons, condemned contact football for juveniles. The editorial, titled “Football Mortality Among Boys,” began: “We called attention early in the season to the fact that deaths and serious injuries were resulting from football, in spite of the claims made that the new rules would give comparative exemption from the dangers of the unreformed game of three years ago.”

JAMA reported football produced 14 fatalities in 1907. Twelve of the deaths were of schools and sandlots, “by whom the new rules are not so carefully followed.” Regarding college football, editors would withhold “final judgment” until further consideration.

“There need be no hesitation, however, in deciding that football is no game for boys to play,” JAMA proclaimed. “Of the whole fourteen killed the ages averaged something under eighteen years; none was over twenty.”

Editors alluded to a football belief that players had but shelf life in the maw, often rendering youths “used up” before collegiate competition. “If football were to be prohibited for students under eighteen and this weeding-out process stopped, then surely there would be more deaths among the older players!” the Journal cracked.

“We may not be able to stop the game, even if it were desirable to do so, but we can prevent some of its evil results,” editors concluded. “It is clear that persons of delicate build or of immature development should not be allowed to engage in football. If we must have this gladiatorial ‘sport,’ would it not be better to adopt gladiatorial methods and have the game played only by fully-developed men who had passed a severe physical examination before beginning the course of training?”

The JAMA bomb invigorated foes of kids football—doctors, lawmakers, educators, parents, college coaches, players, journalists—on their crusade that fell short of establishing legal bans before World War I.

But AMA hierarchy wouldn’t threaten King Football again, for the century and beyond, child combatants notwithstanding. On the contrary, AMA brass and publications would demonstrate unseemly patronage for “youth football,” wholly inappropriate per medical standards and juvenile law, in time ahead.

III. JAMA Editor is Heavyweight of Football Debate 

Organized tackle football for boys and adolescents grew rapidly after World War I, expanding through the Depression Era at schools, clubs and parks. Casualties rose in relation. “Injuries on the football field are a major concern,” Pennsylvania doctors observed in 1937. “While there are about 70,000 college students playing football this fall, there are 700,000 high school boys.”

“Authorities of the game have endeavored to make it safer for the players,” added the medical society, noting historical failures. “Despite whatever may be done to minimize football injuries, there will be more than 70,000 injuries on gridirons of the United States this fall.”

Then medical sarcasm:

“Get that ball!”

“Hit that line!”

“Let’s go, team!”

Many skeptics of cleansed football turned cynical by the 1940s, and debate blew up in public. Juvenile participation was flash-point topic, football’s growth sector, and supporters dug in. Questions loomed regarding medical ethics, child protection and education policy in America. Many doctors proposed to ban tackle football for youths under driving age.

The fray drew star physicians of mass media, debating youth football. The three biggest medical names of print and radio proffered opinions: Drs. Logan Clendening and William Brady, syndicated newspaper columnists, and the AMA heavyweight, Dr. Morris Fishbein, Journal editor, print columnist, and recognized czar of the monolith association.

Dr. Logan Clendening analyzed tackle football from a medico-legal perspective, finding gross negligence, malicious disregard on part of game organizers. “What is the excuse for all this death, suffering and disability that compares with war?” Clendening posed, insinuating blame for medicine, government and education. “It doesn’t ‘make men’ as the coaches argue. It isn’t good sport. It has become one of the stupidest games on earth for the spectator.”

Clendening, who collected injury cases from newspapers, paid a clipping service for the 1941 football season. Thousands of casualty reports were harvested, immense news data for medical follow-up. “Note once more the preponderance of high-school injuries,” Clendening emphasized in his column, “which supports my contention that boys of high school are not physically matured enough to stand the gaff, at least until they are seniors.”

Clendening, proponent of forensic medicine, attributed 23 deaths to football in the year, including 14 schoolboys and 8 sandlot players. For disabling injury, he detected high rates. “The chances are one-to-four [a schoolboy] will receive an injury sufficiently serious to lay him up. The chances are one-to-five that he will receive a permanent injury that will last through life.” An estimated 1.2 million school days were lost by injured players every year.

Like many physicians, Clendening logically associated brain damage of pugilism, known as “punch drunk” disorder in literature, to the same likelihood for football colliding. “The condition is not confined to boxers, and may occur in football players or to anyone who receives a severe blow on the head,” he observed.

Dr. William Brady agreed, having linked brain damage to school football for years in his columns, since Harrison Martland’s microscopic study of deceased boxers. Brady had written for newspapers 35 years, a trailblazer among medical columnists. He regularly ripped boys football, inciting hate mail from schoolchildren and adults.

Brady challenged any ethical physician, acting objectively, to deem tackle football suitable for youths. Brady identified schools as football dens of bully recruitment, where faculty and students groomed boys to play. Anti-football administrators concealed sentiments from local football hordes, Brady alleged, and parents avoided interceding for sons.

“It is bad enough for college freshmen to attempt to train for football,” Brady commented in December 1949. “It is absurd and shameful to permit the ‘sports’ of the community to use growing boys of high school age as stooges in the football burlesque.”

“Football is a grown man’s game, and high school boys, even lanky ones, are not full-grown men.”

Meanwhile, a national audience awaited Dr. Morris Fishbein of the AMA, expressing his view of boys football hyped for release 24 hours after Brady’s from Chicago.

Fishbein was an impact leader of American opinion for three decades, a voice of reach rivaling the president’s in any year. Fishbein was known as editorial pen of various AMA publications he founded, and synonymous for JAMA. But Fishbein fame was culturally ingrained for his popular press. His syndicate columns ran weekly in newspapers and Reader’s Digest. His medical encyclopedias stood ready in countless homes, revered as gospel. Fishbein’s voice was heard through every radio on AMA broadcasts, and the indefatigable personality visited thousands of locales, a celebrity on speaking circuit.

Presumably Dr. Fishbein would judge collision sport for kids in medico-scientific manner, given his reputation and so much at stake. Presumably Fishbein of the AMA, trusted by millions, would act free of bias or politics favoring King Football. Presumably Fishbein was fully informed for his grid proclamation, having premiere access to football files, medical literature and contacts surrounding the sport. He had written extensively of football risks, ranking brain “concussion” as the game’s No. 1 problem.

IV. Fishbein Sells Safer Football, Safer Cigarettes for AMA

JAMA Editor Dr. Morris Fishbein knew Dr. Harrison Martland as colleague, having published the pathologist’s landmark study on “punch drunk” in 1928. Fishbein knew of “traumatic insanity” of the 1800s, or should have. Such brain damage was visible under microscope following the Civil War, in full autopsy of dead sufferers.  Dr. John W. Perkins characterized brain matter as egg yolk during injury, jolted by inertia, bashing into cranial walls. Perkins discussed “traumatic cerebral lesions” attributed to “old injury,” different than gross destruction of acute subdural hematoma. And Journal of the American Medical Association published Perkins—in 1896.

Fishbein saw a host of doctors link brain damage to tackle football after Martland’s boxing revelations, among them Irving S. Cutter, James A. Barton, Edward J. Carroll, Jr., and Ernst Jokl. A particular medical term was established in 1940, chronic traumatic encephalopathy—yes, CTE—coined by Drs. Karl M. Bowen and Abram Blau. Football referee Dr. Eddie O’Brien said excessive contact caused punch drunkenness. Coach Jim Crowley, one of the legendary Four Horsemen, reduced full-contact scrimmages for his Michigan State players, blaming “punch drunk” risk. Countless sportswriters made the connection.

Regardless, Fishbein himself would not associate traumatic brain disorder with football, not publicly, and microscopic autopsy wasn’t yet performed on a deceased player to impress him either way. Fishbein’s clout could’ve made that happen, his demanding football pursue obvious research in wake of  Martland findings—examining a) brain damage in deceased players and b) cognitive deficit in the living—but he kept quiet.

Fishbein identified mental illness as endemic in America but blamed “high-tension” society and factors such as child labor, which he labeled “a great menace to future citizens.” The possibility of a nationalized head-knocking dogma, perpetuated through rites like head-ramming football, sanctioned violence, wasn’t broached by Fishbein.

Dr. Fishbein also schmoozed around football types since his days at University of Chicago, then featuring great teams of Amos Alonzo Stagg. Fishbein had known late coach Knute Rockne, who joked to Collier’s about a punch-drunk lineman for Notre Dame. Fishbein was friend of George Halas, NFL owner and Bears coach who designed a football helmet. Fishbein welcomed doctors of fledgling “sports medicine” to JAMA pages, having published their articles and letters since taking over editorial around 1920. A socialite, Fishbein enjoyed football games even though the sport had been dropped at his college alma mater.

During holiday season of 1949, Dr. Fishbein watched a high-school football game in Chicago then informed a reporter of his stance on juvenile participation. His comments hit news wires on Dec. 20, the day following remarks of Dr. William Brady.

Fishbein of the AMA believed tackle football should be preserved for the Boomer Generation, including juveniles. “The number of deaths and permanent injuries do not warrant the elimination of the game from a high school athletic program,” he said. “In reality, basketball and boxing are much harder on youths than football. I believe boxing should be banned in high schools.”

“Football, in my opinion, is not too dangerous a sport for high school boys.”

Fishbein parroted classic talking points of football advocates. He said play was safer because of rule changes, sound coaching, trained athletes, and, of course, modern equipment. Fishbein said plastic hard-shell helmets, joint creation of football and the military, were finally preventing head injury. “Formerly, helmets were actually a weapon,” he reasoned. “Now they are a protective piece.”

With Fishbein’s blessing, high school football counted as AMA Approved—a real trademark that was household cliché, recognized everywhere. The AMA granted its “seal of approval” to institutions, groups, products and services. Supposedly each was vetted for promoting health in some manner. Most significantly, every vendor or organization bought advertising in AMA publications, with collections payable to Fishbein’s office in Chicago.

AMA approval was displayed and broadcast everywhere, adorning medical schools, hospitals, practices, skin lotion, milk, food, cod liver oil, funeral homes and motorcycle helmets, among the array. Wheaties cereal was AMA-approved, “Breakfast of Champions,” as an advertiser with Fishbein.

Critics were legion with many from inside the AMA. Columnist Dr. Brady ridiculed the association for decades as a member, focusing his ire on Fishbein, bitter rival on issues like football and cigarettes. The two exchanged editorial putdowns, squabbling over scientific standards and news ethics, among topics. Brady honed in on dark “approval” business of the AMA, naturally.

“Doctors on the Make,” Brady headlined his national column in early 1950, following Fishbein’s overdue departure from the AMA. Brady had dropped membership a few years before. “I couldn’t stomach the way the nominal officers of the AMA permitted the dictator, now deposed, to insult them,” he stated.

Brady derided Fishbein as the “Great Pooh-Bah” formerly in charge of the “comic weekly” Journal. Brady charged corrupt trade and communication, “a racket whereby the American Medical Association ‘accepts’ and grants its seal of approval or acceptance to the thousand and one medicines, foods, gadgets, methods, processes and even patents. This racket beats any similar scheme of popular magazines as a means of assuring a huge advertising revenue.”

Cigarettes weren’t exactly AMA-approved, not explicitly. But Fishbein valued tobacco advertising for his Journal, exceeding $100,000 in annual revenue after World War II. Cigarette makers appreciated him likewise. The rhetoric of Dr. Fishbein, a public-relations specialist with medical doctorate, effectively shielded Big Tobacco—a JAMA cash cow along with drug companies—through controversy of the early 20th century.

Doctors increasingly recommended against smoking, citing potential risks and conservative ethic of Do no harm. Many were smokers themselves, one form or another.

In 1939 an expectant mother was advised to halt cigarettes by her physician, so she wrote a medical columnist for his opinion. Dr. George W. Crane answered in print, stating no definitive evidence yet existed of smoking’s harm during pregnancy. “On the other hand,” he added, “there is no clear-cut evidence to prove that use of tobacco may not exercise injurious effects on the unborn baby.” Dr. Crane affirmed the recommendation a pregnant mother shouldn’t smoke.

Dr. Fishbein rationalized differently in his column, lending benefit of doubt to cigarette use, not human health, in the matter of smoking during pregnancy. While Fishbein acknowledged harm to the unborn “seems certain” he attached the caveat: “Many additional studies, are required, however, to determine whether the harm is sufficient to prevent smoking in moderation by prospective mothers.”

And so it went according to Fishbein of the AMA, in a quarter-century of addressing tobacco use, until 1949. He didn’t deny risks but wouldn’t condemn the popular activity, always conjuring positives for smoking, always advocating more research. Fishbein suggested casualties were negligible with millions of adults puffing billions of cigarettes. He hit the fact thousands of doctors smoked cigarettes, right in sync with the focus campaign of Big Tobacco.

A blitz of cigarette advertising made buzz for the theme of doctors in love with cigarettes. Physicians in photos and illustrations were featured lighting up at work and leisure. “More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette” was a slogan indelibly stamped in American conscious of the period. Print pages, placards and billboards were plastered for years of ridiculous images.

Fishbein blamed excessive smokers for any harm documented. He maintained extremists grew ill for their own abuse of cigarettes and cigars. In contrast “safer smoking,” by the blossoming term, was an innocent pleasure for adults to indulge. Clinicians theorized smoking comforted users with beneficial “psychological effects,” Fishbein told audiences.

Fishbein said cigarettes in moderation could relieve anxiety and hunger pangs, or serve as mental stimulant. Fishbein advised smokers purchase only fine processed tobacco, avoiding the “hard, coarse, commoner varieties” that certainly didn’t advertise in JAMA. Fishbein quoted an expert who said, “Speaking generally, tobacco smoking in moderation is not injurious to grown-up people.”

While willing to reach for positives about cigarettes, Fishbein downplayed studies linking maladies of heart, lungs and circulatory system, always suggesting invalid research. “From the available evidence there is no ground for any startling announcement about smoking,” Fishbein proclaimed in his newspaper column.

He approached tackle football same as tobacco use, conservatively guarding the activity if not human participants. At end of 1949 Dr. Morris Fishbein was popular for his football stance, but charade of safer cigarettes hastened his demise at the AMA. Fishbein resigned under pressure, primarily for his nasty opposition to group insurance and subsidized healthcare. That battle pitted Fishbein, “Medical Mussoli,” versus President Harry S. Truman, and the doctor went down.

Fishbein also took heat for posing as cigarette scientist, with the besmirching JAMA and the organization. “The stately American Medical Association finds itself on the spot about cigarette advertising. Its official Journal accepts cigarette company advertising—but it finds the medical claims rather embarrassing,” editorialized the Des Moines Register.

Fishbein and the AMA were guilty of “ardent promotion of cigarette smoking,” Dr. William Brady decried in column. “To be sure, Doctor Fishbein is no longer in the saddle, but it remains to be seen whether the organization will regain the prestige the AMA enjoyed before it went commercial.”

V. Conclusion

In 1953 cigarette advertising was dropped by the AMA, which acquiesced to angry members, public pressure, and mounting conclusions of tobacco risk. The association abruptly denounced cigarettes as dangerous, and the convention in San Francisco unveiled “startling” new research. “A team of medical experts reported that cigarette smoking shortens human life… and definitely causes higher death rates from heart disease and cancer,” media reported.

But the association didn’t deviate on collision football, maintaining status quo. The group continued to endorse tackle football for children and adults, promoting “benefits of sound health.” Simultaneously, the Journal crusaded against television for concern of child viewers; doctors said “horror shows” likely posed “adverse medical and psychological implications” for kids. JAMA, pulling major press, called on the television industry to fund valid research on risks. Meanwhile the AMA still avoided confronting football for essential brain studies, three decades after Martland on boxing.

JAMA instructed parents to closely monitor television for content harmful to young minds. In stark contrast, regarding football, the AMA wizards told worrisome parents to back off, lest they damage male psyche of sons.

“To anxious parents of sons who want to play football, the best advice is—let them. No, that is not enough. HELP them to play it safely,” declared Dr. W.W. Bauer, AMA-Approved health columnist for newspapers. “When a high-school boy wants to play football, this cannot be denied him without possibly doing injury which may be worse than he is likely to sustain on the properly supervised playing field.”

“A great many parents base their apprehensions on an overemphasis of the hazards connected with playing football,” Bauer commented. “Between the ages of 15 and 25, when most of the football activity occurs, accidents to pedestrians and motor-vehicle fatalities of the same age group are 15 times as frequent.”

“The relative safety of the game, despite its reputation for roughness, should prompt parents not to interfere with the athletic activity of their boys including football.”

Dr. Bauer talked the timeless points and promises of grid safety, echoing again nationwide. Anti-concussion helmets, “heads up” tackling, everything was in the offing once more.

And more doctors preferred football than any other sport, based on quotes and testimony flooding multimedia. Promoting doctor approval was a page from King Football’s playbook, merely replicated of late by Big Tobacco.

JAMA was establishing trend for journals by stabling sport doctors and academics, including Allan J. Ryan, Augustus Thorndike and Fred Vein. The MDs and PhDs, specialists of newly formalized sports medicine, melded right in at association publications and confabs. Football was AMA-approved like never before.

Dreams, concepts, gadgets, experts—all came stylish again in America. Anything seemed possible in the Space Age, including safe smoking and safe football.

“Football can be a killer and a maimer,” JAMA intoned, “but for the player it is also a wholesome and valuable experience that—like life itself—can be made safer.”

Matt Chaney is an author, editor, and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football. Chaney, MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, 2009Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at or visit the website for more information.

Select References

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‘Heads Up’ Theory, Football Helmets and Brain Disease, 1883-1962

Today’s football officials like NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tout their safety measures as new, including Heads Up “technique” for headless hitting—but historical news and medical literature tell a different story

Brain Injury in American Football: 130 Years of Knowledge and Denial

Part Three in a Series

By Matt Chaney,

Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Copyright ©2016 by Matthew L. Chaney

I. Introduction

II. 1883-1906: Anti-Butting Rule, ‘Head Up’ for Safer Football

III. 1909-1915: Open Game Spurs High Tackling, Call for ‘Heads Up’

IV. 1920s: ‘Punch Drunk’ Questions, An Answer by Martland

V. 1930s: CTE Evidence, Debate Cast Football as Causal Suspect

VI. 1940: Plastic Helmet Panacea, Psychiatrists Coin CTE Term

VII. 1962: Reselling Anti-Concussion Helmets and Heads Up

This post is dedicated to Donnovan Hill, 18, who died today in his homestate California, a mighty young man

Controversy overtook American football again by 1960, reigniting debate and recommendations for the collision sport. A scourge of brain and spinal injuries threatened football’s standing, particularly at thousands of schools and youth leagues.

Football boasted an estimated 2.5 million players, including a million prepubescent kids. The American Medical Association wanted doctors on sidelines during games, and some AMA physicians labeled tackle football as inappropriate for children.

“We have itsy-bitsy leagues of all descriptions, and we don’t have to like them,” said Dr. Robert R. MacDonald, of Pittsburgh, speaking with Time magazine. “The overwhelming opinion among physicians is against contact sports for elementary and junior high school students.”

“Children are not little men,” said another doctor, unidentified, speaking at an AMA meeting in Washington, D.C. “Cutting down the field and changing the rules doesn’t make football a kid’s sport.”

Health writer Dr. William Brady condemned football for juveniles and insinuated that most medical professionals stood by silently. “With almost no exception, physicians, orthopedic surgeons, and physical education instructors who are not afraid to be counted say football is a grown man’s game and not a game for growing boys,” Brady declared in his national newspaper column. “It is dangerous enough for college or university men.”

American football had withstood crisis before, including for “concussion” or traumatic brain injury,  TBI, of varied description. But after World War II the public cringed over player collisions in hard-shell helmets, and scrutiny fell upon football’s growth sector of grade-school and “peewee” leagues. In 1956 the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended no tackle football for boys until high school.

Plastic helmets had been released commercially during the war, a technical collaboration between football and military designers that changed collision risk on the gridiron. A review of football fatalities from 1947 to 1959 found prime causation shifting away from abdominal bleeding and infection to damages of the brain and neck.

Football was compelled to respond, along with associate enterprises of sports medicine and helmet manufacturing. This unofficial alliance shared profit synergy and motive to expand football, especially among Baby Boomer children, while trying to alleviate casualties and answer critics.

Football officials and associates—including many doctors, AMA members—acknowledged disability and death could never be eliminated, even for kids. But they promised “safer football” that reduced casualties to an unspecified minimum, and their ideas poured forth, disseminated by news media who questioned little for concept validity, reliability or feasibility.

The 1960s helmets would prevent concussion, finally, declared the “football experts.” Anti-TBI models had failed since 1899, starting with patent sole-leather, but now the experts touted polycarbonate plastic shells, rigid facemasks, interior liners and padded covers. They extolled space-age helmet gadgetry, transistor sensors to measure g-forces of head blows, in the all-out research mission of football safety.

Football organizers, coaches, game doctors and academics spoke of rule changes and headless hitting, based on “proper coaching” for safe blocking, tackling and running. Helmet “spearing” and facemask butting were denounced, and in 1962 the college coaches association emphasized “heads up” form for players—anti-butting theory already applied in American football, unsuccessfully, for 79 years.

1883-1906: Anti-Butting Rule, ‘Head Up’ For Safer Football

American athletics expanded along with industry in the 19th century, booming after the Civil War, and sport casualties became a national health problem. Injuries to head and neck led every mainstream sport to ban “butting,” but in tackle football the policy was inapplicable among forward-colliding players.

Rules of American football, based on rugby, evolved to set a line of scrimmage between opposing teams, to designate ball possession for one side at a time, and to assess loss of possession for a team’s failure to advance five yards in three downs. Blocking lines formed, disallowed in rugby, and ramming became prevalent in American football, with injurious collisions reported routinely by newspapers, especially of the “rush line.”

In 1883 the athlete-managed Intercollegiate Football Association [IFA] outlawed butting, defined as Striking a man with the shoulder or head. Problems rose immediately, challenging chief rulemaker Walter Camp for his multi-interests of football—he also refereed games, coached the Yale team, wrote for publishers. America recognized Camp, a 24-year-old Yale graduate and former player, as preeminent authority of “foot ball.”

Referees like Camp could do little to enforce anti-butting within football’s daring runs and thrilling collisions demanded by spectators. Referees only made cursory calls against head-on strikes, citing the most flagrant violations, and the inconsistency ignited controversy when penalties affected victory or defeat.

Trouble struck late in a game of 1885, when Lehigh center Ross Pierce was ejected for butting a Lafayette player, leading to game forfeit. “Lehigh claimed that this was an unjust decision,” reported The Wilkes-Barre Times. ”The Lehigh faculty ordered the men off the field, whereupon the referee [W.C. Posey], as compelled by the rules, gave the game to Lafayette.”

Elsewhere, Yale was notorious as a butting team, and Coach Camp’s affinity for head-knocking play reflected in his comportment as field referee. Camp, for example, conspicuously ignored the violation while refereeing a game of Harvard versus Princeton, which The New York Sun described as “a contest in butting and wrestling” highlighted by “battering ram” hits.

Terrible injuries piled up for American football, including for unrestrained “slugging,” fist punches. Concussion of the brain occurred nationwide, per press reports, along with deaths from cerebral and spinal damage, and rulemakers caught ridicule, particularly since most doubled as inept referees like Camp. The IFA committee promised strict rules enforcement in 1887, adding an “umpire” to aid the referee in a game, and commanding team captains to police player behavior.

Officials analyzed collision contact in hope of eliminating dangerous “high tackling.” Coaches and football-friendly professors penned how-to layouts on safe tackling published in newspapers, complete with illustrations. Players were instructed to strike with shoulder and chest while keeping head to one side, out of harm’s way. “Foul tackling” was defined as hits below the waist and above neckline. But nothing changed and rulemakers acted again, sanctioning blocking on offense while lowering the legal tackle zone to above the knees. Coaches preached “low tackling” with “eyes open” to avoid head shots from churning thighs and feet.

But contact theory and policy could not alter the necessary, inherent ramming of football, and Camp took flak for his officiating fiasco at the 1888 Thanksgiving game between Wesleyan and the University of Pennsylvania.

“Only one man was disqualified,” observed The New York Tribune, “when there should have been a half dozen.” The New York Times, under its sarcastic headline “Not A Man Killed,” reported “both teams endeavored to find out which possessed the most force as battering rams, and they were ramming away most cheerfully when time was called at 4:45, just as it was growing too dark to see.”

Camp responded to the New York press, laying blame for the bloody contest onto players of Penn and Wesleyan, alleging they failed to “tackle properly.” His IFA rules committee huddled further, dropping the term “butting” from code in official printings of 1890, with the edition edited by Camp and published by his business associates at Spalding equipment company.

Thus America’s first football rule to address butting was erased, and Camp proclaimed head hits legal except when a tackler draped a runner’s neck, “throttling” or choking him. Indeed, Camp’s Yale teams capitalized on attacking “like human pile-drivers,” stated a national story. Likewise, for college teams that Camp advised on his California sojourns, “The head or skull of a contestant is quite frequently called into service,” reported The San Francisco Call.

Yale stood peerless for winning football and most recently for revolutionary isolation blocking, sending men through line holes to clear downfield for ball-carriers. Yale players were proficient in head-butting defenders, raved journalists and game insiders. “Yale’s rush line was too strong for Princeton. It was like a battering ram,” newspapers reported of the 1890 game on Thanksgiving.

Brain casualties were acceptable for Camp, but likewise for all football officials and fans, or the game could not exist. Newspapers of the Gay Nineties commonly reported “concussion of the brain” in football, among descriptions of TBI incidents from New York to the Hawaiian Islands. Player symptoms publicized besides “knockout” included headache, memory loss, nausea, balance dysfunction, personality change and mood swings.

Medical specialists treated TBI casualties of early football for all degrees of severity, down to diagnosing “slight concussion” through clinical criteria recognized for decades. “Cerebral concussion with persistent symptoms was described by Boyer in 1822, Astley Cooper in 1827, and Dupuytren in 1839,” observed Dr. Randolph W. Evans in 1994, reviewing the literature timeline.

Physicians of the 1890s could recognize TBI in football players, acute symptoms such as amnesia and violent behavior, but there existed no validated treatment nor reliable injury management. Conservative approach dictated rest and isolation for concussed football players, and doctors urged some to quit the sport—medical opinion prone to dispute by coaches and trainers. Many doctors believed concussed football players could die of brain hemorrhage when returned to contact too quickly.

Moreover, given medicine’s experience with railroad accidents and warfare of industrial artillery, many experts believed brain disease could result from impacts and jarring of any source. Collision football posed obvious risk for cerebral trauma and disorder, those “nervous conditions” already known in the courts as “railway brain” and traumatic insanity. Pathologists utilizing microscopic autopsy found tiny lesions in brain tissue, “a fracture of the mysterious network of filaments… essential to normal mental activity,” prisons expert Frederick Howard Wines wrote in 1895. “A lesion may be compared to a melted fuse in an electric lighting system.”

Medical Record, a journal in Philadelphia, called for abolishing football, “productive of the greatest variety of surgical injuries to every part of the body.” The journal editorialized about tone deafness of society for football casualties. “Short of actual death on the field, not much account is taken of the hundreds of young men who are oftentimes injured for life as the result of the rough-and-tumble methods of the match.”

The football-adoring public had to ignore medical literature and opinion, for cheering the athletic street fight on fields. An Iowa newspaper hyped imagery of ramming heads—foreshadowing future NFL television graphics of clashing helmets—for the opening of college football in 1895. “The Cornell (Mt. Vernon) College foot-ball team will be here next Saturday… to butt heads and tangle limbs and scramble for the ball with the U.I.U. team,” heralded The Fayette County Leader.

Football coaches, trainers, and team physicians surely grasped TBI danger but sought to sustain their lucrative sport, not end it because of irremovable forward-colliding. And head-ramming typically influenced victory for which team did it better, so successful coaches beyond Yale stressed the attack—especially when all of football counted on emerging headgear for neutralizing injury threat.

“There is no use in exposing a man’s head to bruises which the modern football harness largely prevents…,” noted The Chicago Daily Tribune, “the protection of nose guards, ear pads, and the various devices in use make him feel more secure from hurt.” The newspaper observed a “carefully harnessed” team at University of Chicago, the powerful Maroons of coach Amos Alonzo Stagg.

Stagg had starred as a “butting” player at Yale and the philosophy continued for teams he coached. Stagg said he tried teaching the Maroons safer “low tackling” but they were slow to learn. Rather, Stagg’s players aimed “for a man’s head,” reported The Chicago Inter Ocean.

Glenn “Pop” Warner coached at the government Carlisle Institute in Pennsylvania, for young American Indians, and his teams thrived on trick plays and butting throughout the field. The reputation preceded Carlisle on a West Coast trip in 1899, with The San Francisco Chronicle’s reporting:

Dash and unity describe the Indians’ style of play. The backs all crouch like sprinters on the mark, and are off… The linesmen tear forward the instant the ball is snapped, and seem trained to jump through and break up the opposing play before it is well started. [Jonas] Metoxen, the full-back, rated the greatest line-bucker on an American gridiron this season, smashes forward head down, low and with terrific force…

Butting was no small concern for football officials, however, as predictable brain and spine casualties continued despite reform of “brutality” hyped by Camp from 1894 to 1897. The initial helmet models of rubber and leather were proving no remedy for TBI, so officials kept pushing theory of headless contact, promising to teach players.

“The best way to learn tackling is with a dummy with head thrown to one side; that saves your head,” commented Dr. F.C. Armstrong, coach-physician of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, for his how-to article in newspapers. But Armstrong acknowledged the game’s frenetic colliding could not be choreographed. Often the tackler had to halt his foe however necessary, “and in doing this you may have to overlook the rule about keeping the head to one side,” the coach advised. “The softest place to put it is in the other man’s stomach. That makes a pretty tackle, too.”

But a few years later Pratt scrapped football because of the incorrigible violence, in 1906, middle of football season. Institute administrators cited brain injury as particularly incompatible with education, for ethics and practical purposes.

Supposedly the game had been cleansed of brutality through “open play” rules instituted after invention by President Theodore Roosevelt, but Pratt officials disagreed. “Yes, we have dropped football,” confirmed J. Martin Voorhees, director of physical education, speaking with The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “We find that the game has been brutalized to such an extent that a player has to be practically a prize fighter to endure the knocks.”

“That was our experience at Princeton a few weeks ago. We were beaten 27 to 0, but it was not the defeat that came as hard as the breaking of bones and other knocks that were dealt out to us, and I want to say that it was not by unfair methods either, but by football as it is insisted upon today by those who framed the new rules.

“Why, we have today a boy who has concussion of the brain as the result of that contest,” Voorhees continued. “And he is not out of danger yet. That is only one of the cases. There are several others, and I hold the new rules are responsible. It was put up to the committee last night and we simply decided to abolish the game.”

1909-1915: Open Game Spurs High Tackling, Call for ‘Heads Up’

In years following the football reform led by Teddy Roosevelt, recorded injuries dwindled on the team at Harvard, his alma mater, but that was an exception.

Most outlets reported negligible positive results while ferocity of football collisions apparently heightened—and concussions of the brain increased—because of the “open game.” The charged-up field of forward passes, outside runs and sweep blocks produced brutal smashups in free spaces, with less “mass” formations to slow traffic. “High tackling” was blamed for numerous casualties.

“The revised rules of the game have not fulfilled the hopes of their framers,” editorialized The Waterloo Press in Indiana, “the speed and combination plays have proved almost as hazardous.”

“Has Football Reform Failed?” posed The Harrisburg Courier of Pennsylvania, stating “not even the football rule makers can wipe out the bone breaking features of the game by substituting one kind of danger for another.” In Philadelphia, students of a medical college voted to ban the football program after a player died of brain hemorrhage.

“SEASON JUST CLOSED MOST DISASTROUS IN HISTORY OF FOOTBALL: 29 MEN KILLED,” headlined The Topeka Daily Capital on Thanksgiving weekend in Kansas, 1909.

A movement opposed boys football in high schools and “midget” leagues, led by doctors and medical journals, but the naysayers also included NCAA officials, college coaches, grid stars and university presidents. Some lawmakers moved to ban juvenile football in Indiana, New York City, Boston, West Orange, N.J., further locales. Former President Roosevelt supported boys football but admitted reform had fallen short, saying most schools lacked supervision and he wished the game were “less homicidal.”

High schools in the nation’s capital banned hits above neckline and the forward pass: “For Safer Football,” headlined The Washington Herald. Nationwide, officials discussed eliminating kickoffs, barring quarterback runs, penalizing “flying” tackles and blocks. Coaches everywhere reemphasized shoulder tackling and blocking.

“Heads up” contact would protect players, declared The Asbury Park Press, reviving the familiar theory:

It is to be hoped that if football retains its hold upon the American heart that “butting” may be so modified as to preserve the college young man’s skull for future and perhaps more laudable uses. In any event “tackle” with heads up should be substituted for “tackle” with heads down in the football contest. Athletes may get along with broken noses and gradual elimination of front teeth but the skull is valuable and rules should be made to hold it intact if possible.

College rulemakers took another turn at reform in 1912, without addressing head blows. Forward passing was fully sanctioned, legalized from anywhere behind the scrimmage line, for any length of throw, and the playing field was set at regulation 100 yards complemented by 10-yard “end zones” for touchdown receptions. The measures were taken for both player safety and spectator enjoyment, according to the NCAA committee.

Officials declared protective equipment was also advancing. Illinois coach Bob Zuppke produced a new helmet “so designed that the protection comes at all points where a blow might wreak havoc,” newspapers stated.

But one NCAA committeeman questioned safer football, the official pledge since Roosevelt’s intervention. “I am in doubt as to whether the game is safer than it was in years past…” said rules chairman Jonas Babbitt, of Haverford College, “but public opinion seems to hold that it is safer.”

Football’s dark side continued to confront schools, doctors, police, courts and unfortunate families, especially for brain injury and mental disorder linked to the game. Psychosis engulfed a promising young man in eastern Pennsylvania, Raymond Yerger, for injuries believed to have begun in school football, according to newspapers of the period.

The well-liked Yerger, only child of Morris and Sallie Yerger, part of a larger local clan, excelled in athletics and academics at Allentown High. For Thanksgiving in 1910, Yerger led senior football players in organizing a train excursion to their final game at rival Reading. Two hundred AHS faithful paid $1.10 each for train fare, embarking on a holiday extravaganza to culminate that night with a dance back in Allentown.

At Reading the football contest was rough, and Allenville lost in both the score and injury count. Several Allenville players were carried off, including star halfback Ray Yerger, suffering neural effects from a kick to the head. Yerger, diagnosed with “slight concussion” and returned home to Allentown, missed the dance but resurfaced a few nights later to play church basketball. Yerger graduated high school as an honors student, accepted a bookkeeping job, and continued playing sports other than football.

For a few years Yerger remained active in his community and church, and employed, although increasingly subject to mental “spells” and “aberrations,” as family and friends would later recall. A thrown baseball beaned his head around 1913, aggravating symptoms. Yerger grew morose, paranoid, reclusive, avoiding friends for suspicion they made fun of him.

Then an episode turned violent for Yerger at home, terrifying his parents who struggled themselves to make sense of the son’s deterioration. Physically strong, mentally ill, the 22-year-old raged and tossed furniture, threatening to kill his father. Police arrived and placed him in custody. It was holiday season, four years since brain trauma in his last football game for school.

Authorities committed Yerger to Rittersville state hospital for allegedly attempting murder of the father. Yerger reportedly was administered brain surgery to “cure” his disease, and after one year in the facility he sneaked to a bathroom and committed suicide, hanging himself with a towel.

The funeral for young Raymond Yerger was “largely attended” in Allentown, per a report, and he was buried at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, two weeks before Christmas, 1915. Family and friends would always blame football in the tragedy.

1920s: ‘Punch Drunk’ Questions, An Answer by Martland

During the First World War, U.S. military bases trained soldiers in football, indoctrinating thousands for the game beyond those with previous experience. A single camp might host dozens of football games in a day, and at war’s end soldiers came home eager for the civilian gridiron as players, coaches, trainers, doctors and boosters. “World War I provided the new football [passing attack] with a timely and powerful weapon to drive it into the hearts and minds of the American public,” observed historian John Sayle Watterson in 2000. Automobile proliferation, urbanization and partying also juiced football popularity.

The game permeated America in the 1920s, raising concrete stadiums in many communities and reaching every pocket of society. Teams were established in the remotest regions, enlisting boys for school and midget football, ever younger in age, and men to fill local rosters.

Football’s public health issue followed in kind, spreading along, affecting every level to grassroots. Scandals of college football posed sexier headlines for newspapers, revelations of “professionalism” and academic corruption at major universities, but the game’s everyday problem remained violence and casualties of collisions. Publicized annual death tolls reached 20 again, however invalid the numbers, and rekindled debate.

“High tackling” haunted football for injuries to brain and neck, as since the 1880s, and Harvard leaders proposed to outlaw forward passing once again. More old ideas re-circulated. After the 1925 season a group of eastern coaches demanded anti-butting again be mandated, finally enforced, and football experts took another look at field contact, promising safer colliding.

Coaches and officials pushed “head up” theory for low tackling, again, but there was a new twist, talk of upright hitting with head held aside. At least one newspaper scoffed, The Altoona Tribune, commenting in Pennsylvania:

Tackling below the shoulder would be a very fine thing and very practical if runners could be forced to do their sprinting with head up and chest out. The sad part of it is that runners, like [“Galloping Ghost” Red Grange], run very low. If the Wheaton ice man is to be tossed at all, the tackler has little time or opportunity to pick a suitable spot of the Phantom around which to twine his arms. Officials believe that high tackling should be punishable to a 15-yard penalty.

Shortly thereafter, NCAA rulemakers refrained from acting on high tackling and head-up technique. Yet officials needed to find resolution somehow, because news on football TBI was getting worse, with discussion moving toward brain disease.

American football was awash in incidence of concussion or TBI suffered by players, as demonstrated by daily news, while treatment remained inconsistent and mysterious for lack of known, validated protocol. Medical convention, conservative approach, prescribed “the old clinical maxim that every case of concussion must be treated by a definite period of rest in bed, and the very slow and cautious resumption of active life,” said Dr. Wilfred Trotter, British surgeon of neurology, in 1924.

Dr. Morris Fishbein, editor of Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA], noted football risk for concussion and emphasized specialized examination for suspected injury. Fishbein, writing for his national newspaper column in 1927, alerted readers to symptoms of broadly defined concussion, “such as dizziness, ringing in the ears, disturbance of vision, headache, drowsiness, pains in the eye, inability to sleep, convulsions or vomiting.”

But many doctors believed no serious injury occurred until loss of consciousness, an opinion parroted by football personnel, despite player cases of severe TBI not involving knockouts. Football’s minimizing or downplaying cerebral disturbance was also conducive for returning players quickly to field contact. Brain trauma was cost of doing business in head-ramming football, so teams stockpiled smelling salts, hired doctors when possible, and young athletes kept lining up, willing combatants.

“No football player is afraid of getting knocked out. It’s too common an experience,” said Centre College star Sully Montgomery. “You can’t go through a season on the gridiron without being knocked senseless a couple of times.” Coaches were run over by speeding bodies, too, like old battering ram Amos Alonzo Stagg, flattened unconscious by a player at the University of Chicago. Kayoed at age 64 by “a swift charging back,” Stagg returned next day to his coaching job, 34 years leading the Maroons, newspapers reported.

Chronic mental disorder, meanwhile, became football’s larger question of the 1920s, the threat of permanent disease from impacts and jars. Boxing attracted attention for medical allegations it caused brain damage, resulting in legal claims and defenses, but football was likewise suspected by people qualified to make the connection. At least one pair of researchers and a segment of NCAA coaches discussed possible neural disease among football players—before Dr. Harrison S. Martland released his milestone evidence of micro-hemorrhaging in brains of deceased boxers.

For years medical personnel had diagnosed disorder like traumatic insanity in football players, and “shell shock” since the World War. Doctors and football families linked suicide and crime to disease of brain trauma, testifying in cases of troubled players. “Punch drunk” or “slug nutty” commonly meant brain disorder in pugilists but the slang showed up elsewhere, around football in particular. A Brooklyn sportswriter described Syracuse linemen as “punch drunk and wavering” against Columbia in November of 1926, and famed columnist Grantland Rice ripped Harvard and Yale, football’s fading flagships, as “old timers who are now punch drunk.”

Drs. Michael Osnato and Vincent Giliberti discussed traumatic encephalitis in their 1927 article on post-concussion damage for Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry. The New York physicians concluded brain disease might manifest in “young men knocked out in football and other games,” continuing: “Our work shows that the structural factors in post-concussion neurosis have not received adequate attention.”

Awareness went mainstream in 1928, when Martland presented his findings of “punch drunk” in boxing and recommended investigation throughout contact sports for brain damage in athletes. The term sprang into popular lexicon, including for grist in comedy setups—“The Three Stooges [in] Punch Drunk!” News rhetoric from Washington relied on punch drunk allusions for discussing lawmakers and congressional bills paralyzed by politics.

Talk buzzed of punch-drunk football players, naturally, and apparently long had. “Notwithstanding that this condition has been known to boxing and football coaches for many years, it is only within the past year that the medical profession has seriously considered the matter,” Dr. James W. Barton wrote for his syndicated newspaper column. Barton, a sport physician, continued:

As students we were taught that a “concussion” was just a shaking up of the brain. That it was as if you took the skull in your hands and gave the contents a “shake.” No injury followed it, because the bony case, the skull, was not injured. … Therefore we never gave concussion much thought, because, although there is a temporary loss of consciousness or a loss of memory, it soon clears away, and there is no apparent damage done.

However, Dr. H.S. Martland some months ago told us that in some of these cases the brain substance can be “bruised” just like other parts of the body, and this bruising results in the breaking of tiny blood vessels and discoloration just as in a bruise of the skin.

What is this knowledge going to mean to us?

It certainly does not mean that boxing, football or other sports should be abandoned, but where an athlete or a player in any kind of sport gets a bump, a blow, or a kick, and finds it results in a loss of memory, however short, he should keep away from that sport for a time, because it is the “repeated knocks,” coming at frequent intervals, that may finally unbalance the mind.

A doctor who refereed NCAA sports warned of “punch drunk” football players, speaking at a coaches gathering in Boston. The referee Dr. Eddie O’Brien said:  “Every one of you high school football coaches should see to it that a doctor is on the field of play, ready to rule whether a lad hurt in a game should be removed or not. If the player is not steady on his legs and normal in his faculties, he should be removed from the game and given medical assistance until he has fully recovered from the blow that caused the trouble.”

The writer Damon Runyon remarked that many football players “wind up a little slug-nutty.” New York sports columnist W.O. McGeehan criticized a coach for returning a “punch drunk” player to action, when “the first thing he did was to toss a forward pass to one of the opponents.” Coach Knute Rockne joked in Collier’s about a “punch drunk” halfback at Notre Dame, unable to find his sideline after being rocked in a game.

Legendary Irish player Jim Crowley, one of the Four Horsemen, spoke seriously in regard to traumatic brain injury. Crowley, head football coach at Michigan State, drew praise for limiting practice hits among his players during the week. “Give that same outfit three or four scrimmages and they’ll be punch drunk when a game comes around,” Crowley said.

Besides Coach Crowley and referee-physician Eddie O’Brien, football insiders produced no fresh thought for protecting the head and reducing TBI, and casualty reports stayed in headlines, like minimally 29 deaths in 1931.

Helmets were brought up again as possible prevention, and so-called technique for headless hitting. Grantland Rice, the household name among sportswriters and a former Vanderbilt football player, teamed with NFL star Benny Friedman to retread and promote “heads up” theory.

Friedman blamed deaths on the players themselves, for “lacking of skill in blocking and tackling.” The Giants’ record-setting quarterback insisted players must finally accept and learn heads-up contact. “I have seen any number of tacklers and ball carriers drive in with their heads down instead of keeping their heads up,” Friedman said. “I have also seen considerable attempted blocking with the head and neck instead of shoulders or body.”

Rice, wordsmith of Four Horsemen gridiron myth, channeled Friedman’s “heads up” tips for millions of readers, writing in his syndicated column: Tackle with your head up… A ball carrier should keep the head up… Use shoulders, hips and body… know the proper way to block.

Yale coach and physician Dr. Marvin “Mal” Stevens endorsed head-up theory and shoulder tackling, but he really banked on helmet tech to finally stop TBI in football. “It is well within the bounds of reason that within a short space of time football equipment can and will be materially improved, and we look forward confidently to the near future when vastly improved headgear will eliminate all serious head injuries,” Stevens co-wrote in his 1933 book, The Control of Football Injuries, with Yale surgeon Dr. Winthrop Morgan Phelps.

Yale’s MD coach would enter his own headgear into the ring of football’s everlasting helmet sweepstakes. Dr. Mal Stevens would design his prototype for the elusive anti-concussion helmet, and, in standard practice for coach inventors, test it on the heads of his college players.

1930s: CTE Evidence, Debate Cast Football as Causal Suspect

New Jersey pathologist Dr. Harrison S. Martland committed to a prime scientific mission in the 1920s, for exposing an occupational hazard, but it wasn’t brain damage in athletes.

The unassuming Martland, coroner of Essex County across the Hudson from New York City, became internationally renowned for identifying radium poisoning in factory workers, hundreds of women. Martland documented and explained the toxic disease, leading to court settlements for the afflicted and industry regulation to save lives. Additionally, Martland was a pioneer of forensic medicine for crime-solving and helped found a school in the discipline at NYU.

Martland could not follow-up his 1928 “punch drunk” findings, leaving the disease state for others to quickly label traumatic encephalopathy, or TE. His method for full brain autopsy would not be replicated in the United States until the next century, unfortunately for head-injury victims like athletes, combat soldiers and battered women, generations to come.

The American sports of boxing and football did not embrace Martland research, ignoring two urgent research needs posed by the results: a) to determine prevalence of traumatic encephalopathy among deceased athletes, and b) to randomly measure cognitive deficits in living athletes through converging neuro-psychiatric assessment tools.

Boxing officials had already questioned existence of punch-drunk syndrome, for decades, and they responded strongly to Martland’s brain slides that spelled instant tempest for the sport. Prizefighting insiders claimed, led by heavyweight champs Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, that factors besides punches caused undeniable micro-hemorrhaging, later termed as tau deposition.  Insiders blamed child exploitation, poor training, “unscientific technique” and worn-out gloves for punch drunkenness, even gravity, boxers’ falls to ring mats.

Boxing voices said low IQ could cause locomotor ataxia or the shuffling “fighter’s dance,” as could causal sins like alcohol, drugs, philandering—just not the sport itself. Seattle promoter Buddy Bishop declared bankers and bookkeepers faced same risk as boxers. “Dissipations [vice] and not punches bring a boxer to the ‘punch drunk’ stage,” Bishop said. “Bad liquor, later hours, unnatural habits and bad associates will make any person groggy in time. Boxers do not get ‘punch drunk’ from beatings.”

Football sidestepped epicenter of the TE debate and made no move toward studies of players. Many coaches and newsmen were humored, in fact, joking about slug-nutty linemen, conveying nonchalance. “These boys are getting punch-drunk from going up against bigger, tougher teams and so am I,” cracked Bob Zuppke, iconic coach for winning and certifiable failure for designing anti-TBI headgear, at University of Illinois. Washington Post columnist Shirley Povich practiced football-boxing hypocrisy dating to the 1880s, the juggling act of condemning pugilism while extolling the gridiron; he depicted boxers as gladiatorial dupes but football players as swashbuckling , endearing “punch drunks.”

And at Notre Dame, the football team’s ominous supply of ammonia smelling salts for brain-blasted casualties got airy treatment in a wire report:

Irish Trainer Prepared For 1,440 “Knock Outs”

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)—Eugene Young, Notre Dame trainer, is ready for a big football season.

Taught by experience, he has ordered a gross of boxes of inhalants, or 1,440 “smellers,” just about the quantity he needs to revive young gridders knocked unconscious on the gridiron. In the old days a bucket of water was all that was necessary.

But laughter had limits in the trustless Depression Era, including for the beloved gridiron institution. The game caught fallout over The Carnegie Report, corruption at colleges, and for player fatalities in schools and sandlots.

A special criticism materialized for traumatic brain injury and the question of disease potential in forward-colliding football. Medical experts, news writers and former players led a public discussion, marking the 1930s as another crisis period for the game.

Conventional doctors, those unattached to sports medicine, deemed concussion or TBI of football unhealthy and potentially damaging. Specialists generally opposed rapid return to play for brain casualties in football, and some called for outlawing juvenile participation. A succession of MD newspaper columnists warned of football during the Thirties, such as Drs. William Brady, Morris Fishbein, Louis Berg, Logan Clendening and Irving S. Cutter.

Dr. Brady ripped juvenile play and enabler parents, along with characterizing schools as football churches that made pariahs of boys who resisted indoctrination. And an anti-football administrator typically did nothing for fear of unemployment, alleged Brady. “Now, parents, all together: Down with high school football!” Brady proclaimed in his well-read column.

A key figure of football health debate was Dr. Fishbein, high-profile leader of the American Medical Association as a national columnist and JAMA editor. Fishbein sounded the alert on concussion and potential damage of the collision game. “KEEP YOUR HELMET ON!” he preached to players, introducing a 1933 column for newspapers. Fishbein continued:

There have been far too many cases of concussion of the brain and even fracture of the skull in football to take a chance without adequate head protection. …

Most serious of all injuries are those affecting the brain and the skull. A concussion of the brain means that the brain tissue actually has been bruised, with possible small hemorrhages into the tissue.

The first sign of such injury is loss of memory for recent events. The least important sign is a slight dizziness. But coaches and trainers should not, however, be unimpressed when a player comes out of a sudden impact with another player merely slightly dizzy or dazed.

In a subsequent column, Dr. Fishbein observed: “Because the school or the team takes much of the responsibility for the football player, it should control the kind of medical attention that he receives. The man should not be permitted to consult the first charlatan at hand, but should be directed to proper medical care by those in charge of the team.”

Dr. Berg affirmed the risk of brain disease in football and employed the medical term chronic encephalitis, or CE, for his column:

To many people the term “punch drunk” brings to mind a comic character weaving and boxing with an imaginary enemy the moment somebody sounds a bell behind him.

In truth it is an actual mental disorder—though not known scientifically under that name—brought on by repeated injuries to the blood vessels of the brain and the production of what is called chronic encephalitis.

It is a mistake to assume that this is a condition confined solely to ex-boxers. True the old-time fighter and in particular the preliminary boy, who risked his neck for a few dollars and the plaudits of the gallery, were the commonest exponents of this condition. But today one sees other victims of this disease due to punishment received about the head. Such a type is the football player who partakes in one game or one scrimmage too many. …

The mental symptoms of this disorder produced by minute hemorrhages in the brain, are a distortion of the faculties of attention, concentration and memory.

Dr. Clendening observed: “Punch drunk is an occupational disease. The victims have very marked personality changes… The condition is not confined to boxers, and may occur in football players or to anyone who receives a severe blow on the head.”

Medical literature and groups corroborated the MD columnists regarding brain injury, in communication often citing football.

“The increasing number of cases of trauma of the head [in society] presents a problem of major importance to all branches of the medical profession,” Drs. A.E. Bennett and H.B. Hunt wrote for Archives of Surgery journal in 1933, continuing:

There has been a marked therapeutic advance in the management of the severer types of acute injuries of the head in the past decade, owing to the increasing general knowledge of the diagnosis and treatment of cerebral edema and hemorrhage. Also, the surgical indications are fairly well agreed on by all authorities.

The milder degrees of cerebral trauma, which at the time of the accident are usually called cerebral concussion, representing types of injury to the brain without acutely increased intracranial pressure, with or without fracture of the skull, have not in our opinion received the study they deserve. In the past the results of treatment of this group of patients, in which there is a large number, have been unsatisfactory. A large percentage of the patients have residual complaints, and the question as to whether their complaints were on a psychogenic or an organic basis has not been clear.

Some of the patients show diffuse neurologic signs, mental symptoms, personality changes, palsies of the cranial nerves and bilateral findings, but no focal signs. These findings are not entirely attributable to cerebral edema, but are probably the result of multiple punctate hemorrhages throughout the brain tissue. This condition is a true type of traumatic encephalitis…

“Statistics show an appalling incidence of head trauma,” Drs. N.W. Winkelman and J.L. Eckel wrote for Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry in 1934, continuing:

The subject of the changes in the brain and the symptoms resulting from head injuries is coming to be most important in modern medicine. The courts are deluged with cases in which compensation and redress are sought because of claims of permanent sequelae as the result of alleged injuries to the brain. The subject is further complicated by the fact that neurologists and neurosurgeons are still at odds concerning the question of the organic or functional nature of many of the symptoms. The clinical evidences of brain trauma during the acute period require no lengthy descriptions.

Dr. Edward J. Carroll, Jr., who interviewed ring insiders for in his 1936 observational review of brain-injured boxers titled “Punch Drunk,” reported hearing of the condition among professional football players. Carroll wrote for American Journal of Medical Sciences:

There is a clinical syndrome of frequent occurrence among boxers, to which they refer as “punch-drunk,” “punchy,” “goofy,” “slap happy,” cutting paper dolls,” or “slug nutty.” Other terms might be applied, such as “traumatic dementia” or “traumatic encephalopathy,” but they are not nearly so appropriate and descriptive as the epithet “punch-drunk.” …

Although multiple punctate hemorrhages probably constitute the underlying pathologic change in punch-drunk, extensive degeneration might be explained even without reference to such vascular lesions. It is hardly possible that a blow which jars the brain sufficiently to cause loss of consciousness would not be followed by some tissue reaction, such as hyperemia and edema with effusion into the intracellular spaces, leading  to [metabolic] disturbances of nutrition and thus to impairment of function. An area with anatomic predilection to this type of injury is the midbrain. With a jar of the skull, the midbrain is forced against the sharp edge of the tentorium and bruised, resulting in edema and hyperemia. Following repeated insults to this region a gliosis may begin, and increase with each succeeding trauma. This scarring could result in a narrowing of the aqueduct, predisposing to the formation of an internal hydrocephalus with an increase in the intraventricular pressure and subsequent damage to the cortex.

Another explanation is the jarring of the brain by a blow results in the fracturing of cell processes. The unequal specific gravities of the gray and white matter give to them different degrees of acceleration in response to a force. This inequality of movement might cause a rupture of the neurons at the junction of the two tissues. The technical problems of demonstrating such minute lesions and differentiating them from artefacts leave this occurrence unproven.

Carroll’s study would stand seminal among the American literature on brain disease of sport and other trauma causes. He concluded:

Comment. It is probable that no head blow is taken with impunity, and that each knock-out causes definite and irreparable damage. If such trauma is repeated for a long enough period, it is inevitable that nerve cell insufficiency will develop ultimately, and the individual will become punch-drunk.

The cognizance and investigation of this condition by the medical profession would be a contribution to the neurologic and psychiatric study of traumatic disorders. But a higher end would be the education of the layman to the remote dangers incident to repeated minor head traumas. The occurrence of this type of degenerative brain change must be recognized and publicized rather than disregarded and discounted. It is especially important that athletes entering into competitions in which head injuries are frequent and knock-outs are common should realize that they are exposing themselves not only to immediate injury, but also to remote and more sinister effects.

Specialists of medical groups and journals logically correlated “punch drunk” with head-ramming football, particularly in Pennsylvania, where the state athletic commission screened for stricken boxers. “ ‘Traumatic encephalopathy’ is what the doctor would call it… Should not young men in boxing and football be watched more closely and be forbidden the sport at the first sign of punch-drunkenness?” posed Pittsburgh Medical Record editors.

The Delaware County Medical Society intoned: “Young athletes, whether in boxing or football or whatever sport should be carefully guarded by their trainers against the cranium crunchers that lead to being punch drunk.”

News media, for their part, reported of football TBI and punch-drunk players at all levels of the game in the 1930s.

Hartford Courant sportswriters extended concern for a local Colgate graduate and grid star, Joe Bogdanski, urging him in print to forego professional football. “Joe’s fresh-faced, handsomely built, tawny-skinned with the glow of health, full of the vigor of youth,” they editorialized, “who wants to see him battered and ‘punch drunk’ like some of the best-known pro football players of today? We could mention a few names… but we won’t.” Bogdanski would not play pro football, going on instead to earn a law degree and serve as Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Press accounts alleged that anonymous football players suffered brain disease like many boxers who were landing in courts and mental wards. The writer-artist Copeland C. Burg filed this 1934 analysis for The Chicago American:

CHICAGO, Oct. 6—Punch-drunk football players! Sure—there are lots of them.

Like punch-drunk prizefighters, they are goofy and wander around in the clouds most of the time.

But try and prove it!

We mean get some football coach or big player to talk about it for publication.

Nothing doing. When queried they look at you as though you were very punch-drunk yourself and walk away.

But off the record they will tell you plenty.

They will tell you that _________  _________, at one time one of the biggest backfield stars in America, is so punch drunk he goes around writing bum checks, forgetting important engagements and generally acting so strange and absent-minded that he has ruined his professional career. He’s punch-drunk.

They will tell that __________ _________, formerly a big eastern star, who thrilled the overflowing stands with long runs down the field, is about to be taken to an insane asylum. He’s harmless but more easily cared for at an institution than in the home of a relative. Another punch-drunk victim.

They will tell you strange stories about many great players and the central theme of these yarns is that the players did this and that because they got punch-drunk from blows received in football games.

In modern football, in addition to the bumps and swats received in authorized play, there is considerable old-fashioned, Marquis of Queensbury, punching and slugging as everyone knows.

High up in the stands a spectator can’t see much of these private boxing matches but players, coaches, and officials down on the field know that almost all games are marked by a score or more of good knockout punches, “sneaked” over during line plunges and other plays that give a chance to swat in the dark.

Kicking is another feature contributing to punch-drunk gridiron victims. Nearly every player gets kicked in the head by one of the enemy at least once or twice each season.

The writer talked to a former midwestern star about punch-drunk football players. This player was one of the best ever turned out in America. He admitted freely that many players were punch-drunk and never recovered from the effects of the blows they received on the gridiron. He named several big stars from leading colleges. He also named quite a few former college heroes, now professional football players.

Some of the yarns he told about those players were pretty wild.

In fact the writer was and is firmly convinced the man he was listening to was thoroughly punch-drunk himself.

In Georgia, The Albany Democrat-Herald declared athletes had but a shelf life in football and brain-battering sent many into premature decline, a brutal cause-and-effect scenario “apparent to laymen who have followed the game.” The editorial continued:

Football is a hard game. Those who play hardest at it are likely to be jarred into a condition similar to that which fighters and wrestlers undergo. They become what would be called in the ring “punch drunk.” This mental condition, together with the physical injuries which football players sustain, operate to slow men up as they become veterans. That is the probable explanation of a vast majority of anti-climaxed gridiron biographies.

Critics contended NCAA football should provide “scholarships,” medical coverage and pensions for players, given the profits for colleges and coaches. Scandal struck the University of North Carolina in 1937, on revelations of illicit aid to football players, and The Daily Tar Heel editorialized against injuries and false amateurism, suggesting a professional club might be in order for the campus. Editors co-wrote:

If we have to have football to let some boys work their way through school… abolish the “beating” they get in the game, and give them part of the $30,000 we collect in fees in the form of plain scholarships. The boys would have a much better chance to show themselves good students and worthy “persons as persons,” as the rules say, than they do now when you work them every day for five hours, take them out of school one sixth of the time… turn ’em out in the end punch drunk or cracked up, and make ’em lie about it, to boot. If you want to improve conditions, why don’t you set up a working hour-wage law for football, forbidding more than an hour-and-a-half practice every day. …

One more and probably the most honest suggestion: rent the stadium and the whole outfit to the alumni, let them put out a really first class ball club, professional and paid, under the name, if you will, of the UNC Alumni team. If the boys happen accidentally to want to take advantage of the educational opportunities here, splendid; let ’em register with their preferred Dean.

News commentators kept hammering football as America approached its next great war. At autumn’s outset in 1939, a West Coast columnist remarked: “It is now football season and there will be about 12,000 college men playing this year for—for what? Getting knocked punch drunk to promote a billion-dollar business.”

The unattributed blurb, surfacing on an Opinion page in Van Nuys, perhaps was traceable to Oakland Tribune sports editor Art Cohn. Soon after, with football casualty reports piling up, Cohn panned the game as a “rotten racket in glamour and glorified insanity.” He wrote: “The football business cannot absolve itself… Football cannot even give its victims—or their bereaved—enough insurance to cover doctors’ bills and funeral expenses.”

1940: Plastic Helmet Panacea, Psychiatrists Coin CTE Term

Football officials of the Thirties weren’t easily provoked to comment on issues, by detractors whose complaints were muted amid cultural glorification of the game.  The pro level was unorganized among circuits like the NFL and of marginal concern to the general public. The premier NCAA game was bureaucratic with leaders scattered at member schools, making them tough to corner individually on the macro issues, especially traumatic brain injury.

Many NCAA policymakers doubled as coaches who were publicly adored for winning, flanked by friendly media to protect them and the sport. The football-media complex counterattacked dissidents like Frank Scully, writer and former Columbia player who suffered injury infection and leg amputation. When Scully alleged college football was rife with TBI and cerebral disease, in his exposé published by Liberty magazine, ready sport scribes pounced to excoriate him as a vengeful liar.

The NCAA and coaches association stated nothing formally on the prospect of permanent brain damage for players. But officialdom finally gave ground over broadly defined concussion, conceding it was common problem for football, as conventional medicine had charged since the Victorian Era.

“Concussion is a term which is used to describe a very definite injury,” observed football coach Dr. Mal Stevens, a forerunner in sports medicine, for his book with Yale surgeon Dr. Winthrop Phelps. The co-authors continued:

It is the result of a blow on the head which is sufficiently hard to cause a period of temporary  disturbance [emphasis added] of the proper functioning of the brain. This is usually apparent either from a period of unconsciousness or may be seen in a period during which the player is dazed or unaware of what is going on. He may seem to continue to play normally but will not remember, afterwards, events which have occurred during a given period of time. This period of amnesia may last from a few minutes to a few hours. A mild concussion may often be determined by asking the player questions which require him to be closely in touch with his environment.

Stevens led official endorsement of sideline testing for concussion, a questions-based protocol appearing in the first NCAA medical handbook, 1933. Concussion testing was said to fully protect football players at programs like Yale, where Stevens played and coached. Stevens served one term as president of the American Football Coaches Association and chaired its injury committee for a longer period, overseeing the publication of recommendations for safer play following the 1937 season.

The coaches’ criteria for safe football mostly rehashed 40 years of official promises regarding brutality. The boilerplate talking points, crafted by the late Walter Camp at olden Yale, included: fitness examination for every player, child and adult; high-quality training facilities; protective equipment; constant injury monitoring by doctor and coach; proper training and technique; qualified coaching; and parental vigilance for player health.

But the modern coaches posted genuinely progressive points, too, urging the establishment of paid healthcare and heart screening for all players. Moreover, AFCA recommendation No. 6 addressed negligence of brain injury in football—extraordinary for the time, profound for future context—while specifying a concussion threshold to avoid mortality in contact sport:

During the past seven years the practice has been too prevalent of allowing players to continue playing after a concussion. Again this year this is true. This can be checked at the time of the preseason medical examination by case history questions. A case in point is where no knowledge was had before the player’s death of a boy who suffered a previous concussion from a bicycle accident. Sports demanding personal contact should be eliminated after an individual has suffered one concussion.

Nevertheless, no such health information was incorporated for football rules or other NCAA mandates throughout the Thirties. As in past crises, the committee tinkered with code on “unnecessary roughness,” banning slaps and forearm strikes to the head, among modifications, but nothing further in association policy transpired to prevent injury.

Officials recommended safety measures, they theorized, like touting “side” and “roll” tackles. Players were taught “scientific” falling and tumbling, how to tuck chins and roll on their shoulders. Coaches emphasized, once again, that players must hit with head up and held aside. And football officials promised safer helmets, as usual, promoting revolutionary technologies.

Dr. Stevens saw the moment to unveil his “concussion eliminator” helmet, a pneumatic model presumably improved from the Spalding failure in early century. Stevens, head football coach at New York University in 1939, placed the contraption of rubber and air cushions on his players then reported himself that “experiments have proved it highly successful.”

News writers merely parroted Stevens’ claim the model eliminated all brain trauma down to headaches, in their reports. None confirmed independent validation of the Stevens anti-TBI helmet, much less his qualifications to engineer such a design. But it hardly sold, anyway, because plastic hard-shells were the rage.

Plastic helmets were football’s salvation, certain to stop brain injury in football—or so went the popular assumption without scientific proof.

And John T. Riddell emerged as the chosen coach to reap helmet riches, releasing his plastic models in 1940 with major press coverage. Riddell’s state-of-the-art, hard-shell helmets adorned the team at Northwestern University, where players felt fortunate to wear full protection from head injury, according to the public narrative. Soon Riddell would join production forces with the U.S. military.

Nothing really changed, of course, for field danger that season. Football games and practices continued producing TBI incidents by the thousands, according to news reports available today in electronic databases such as ProQuest and The year’s grid star was ramming fullback John Alec Kimbrough, Texas A&M, a spectacular “line ripper” of size and speed who amassed yardage in “his famed butting, diving, plunging and shouldering,” gushed The Christian Science Monitor.

In the same year, without fanfare, a pair of psychiatrists coined the term chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, some 60 years before pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu made it commonplace. In 1940 psychiatrists Karl M. Bowman and Abram Blau discussed chronic traumatic encephalopathy in a boxer’s case for their book chapter “Psychotic States Following Head and Brain Injury in Adults and Children.”

A year later Pearl Harbor was bombed, drawing the United States into World War Two, and the horrific global conflict desensitized Americans for domestic issues like tackle football.

1962: Reselling Anti-Concussion Helmets and Heads Up

When Mal Stevens was a young head coach in college football, he dreamed of becoming rich. “If I had a million dollars,” Stevens would remark, “I’d buy me a professional football team and enjoy myself for the rest of my life by coaching it.”  Recalling this story for a writer in 1960, Dr. Marvin A. “Mal” Stevens didn’t mention whether his personal foil was failure to engineer the golden anti-concussion football helmet. Besides, he still hadn’t given up on his pneumatic model.

Dr. Stevens no longer coached football, having left the game following World War Two and his military service as orthopedic surgeon and medical adviser. In 1951 Stevens accepted the New York governor’s appointment to “help clean up boxing” by establishing a boxing medical board for the State Athletic Commission. Thus Stevens became recognized for leading American boxing’s campaign to demean and deny CTE findings dating back to Martland’s “punch drunk” study.

Stevens, the joint-and-bone specialist, a living legend of sports medicine, still insisted concussion or traumatic brain injury was temporary, posing no risk of permanent damage. Citing his own brain studies of athletes, scoffing at conventional research like so many of his colleagues in U.S. sport, Stevens outright dismissed the sound neurological theory of repetitive, sub-concussive trauma as causation for disease.

“We just haven’t seen any punch-drunk fighters since I have been here, and we’ve been looking for them,” Stevens testified before New York legislators in 1962, adding his regret that “we don’t have boxing in every school and every town in the country.” Neurologist Dr. Abraham Rabiner, a boxing medical colleague of Stevens at the Albany hearings, testified that studies on repetitive blows and chronic encephalopathy amounted to junk science, “nonsense.”

Meanwhile, plastic football helmets had proven no panacea for preventing TBI, the addition of rigid facemasks notwithstanding. Riddell and other makers of hard headgear had succeeded in major sales over the decades since leathers, but danger of head-on brain injury was higher than ever in football—and unnecessarily so, according to Dr. Stevens.

“The hard plastic helmets used today are worse than the ones we used 30 years ago. They ought to be outlawed,” Stevens commented in The Boston Globe. “Players can use their helmets as offensive weapons. The faceguards are worse.” Stevens believed his helmet of air-cushioned rubber had hope yet. “I don’t favor all this stuff that goes in front of the face,” he volunteered. “I think a player would be much better off with a well-fitted, soft and resilient helmet, without a faceguard. There’s been some experimentation with pneumatic helmets [by Stevens, 1939, and Spalding-Camp in 1903], but without much luck.”

Helmet rivals aside, Stevens strongly advocated football and rejected revivalist criticism for juvenile participation, declaring the sport itself was not dangerous, only irresponsible individuals. “If you’re going to play the game, then you must accept the fact that there will be some injuries. But with proper supervision and good common sense, there is less risk in playing football than there is in driving to the game.”

He sounded like Walter Camp, revered “Father of Football” whom Stevens got to know as star Yale halfback in the early Twenties. During this 1962 interview Stevens repeated football’s time-trusted talking points for gullible generations. The Boston student writers who interviewed Stevens, and Globe copy editors who laid out the Q&A page, proclaimed football in a headline to be “Basically a Safe Game.”

They printed verbatim Stevens’ stock football lines about safe blocking and tackling, and headless contact—yet impossible in the forward-colliding sport, particularly for modern helmets.

“Teach the players to run with their heads up; block and tackle with their heads up,” Stevens said. “You can’t theorize on these things.”

Select References

The author stocks additional information in histories, medical literature and thousands of news texts,  among media, for this analysis. Also see ChaneysBlog news lines on Heads Up theory and football brain disease.

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A Game. (1892, Jan. 24). A one-sided game. San Francisco Chronicle, p.17.

A Headgear. (1915, Sept. 4). A new headgear. Fort Wayne Daily News IN, p.9.

A Lady. (1889, Nov. 9). A lady Admirer of high kicking. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.4

A Student. (1885, Nov. 12). A Harvard student fatally injured. Lebanon Daily News PA, p.1

Abramson, J. (1958, Dec. 1). Army beat Navy with muscle, and made a hard job of it. New York Herald Tribune, p.B2.

Action Against. (1926, March 20). Action against forward pass by rule committee. Alton Evening Telegraph IL, p.2.

“Ad” Insane. (1927, Sept. 6). “Ad” Wolgast, noted fighter, is insane. Bend Bulletin OR, p.1.

Al Drowns. (1930, July 7). Al Lassman of gridiron fame drowns. Logansport Pharos-Tribune IN, p.1.

Allentown Run. (1913, Feb. 2). Allentown High inter-class run. Allentown Democrat PA, p.6.

Amherst Plays. (1891, Oct. 8). Amherst plays a tie. New York Sun, p.4.

Archbishop Bans. (1909, Nov. 4). Archbishop bans football. Sedalia Democrat MO, p.7.

Armor For. (1900, Nov. 11). Armor for football. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.45.

Army Cancel. (1909, Nov. 1). Army will cancel its football engagements. Washington Post, p.8.

Army Engineers. (1894, Dec. 1). Army Engineers’ season closed. New York Times, p.7.

As Seen. (1892, Dec. 4). As seen by Mr. Camp. San Francisco Call, p.8.

At Recent Meeting. (1903, April 7). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] San Francisco Chronicle, p.6.

Athlete Insane. (1914, Dec. 2). Athlete becomes insane: Result of injury received in football game. Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, p.13.

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Baseball Dangerous. (1938, Oct. 4). Baseball and polo dangerous. Bloomington Pantagraph IL, p.10.

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Brady, W. (1929, Oct. 25). Personal health service. Hartford Courant CT, p.10.

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Bugle Calling. (1914, Oct. 18). Bugle calling horses to post will sound at Latonia to-day. Cincinnati Enquirer, p.41.

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Camp, W. (1891, Nov. 29). On defensive play. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.12.

Camp, W. (1919, Oct. 18). Walter Camp’s inside football. Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, p.12

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Coaches Hint. (1961, Oct. 25). Coaches hint factor on grid deaths. Indiana Evening Gazette IN, p.22.

Coaches Propose. (1961, Oct. 13). Coaches propose safety study to reduce football fatalities. New York Times, p.46.

Coaches Safer. (1962, Jan. 11). Coaches’ unit outlines program at making football safer. Appleton Post-Crescent WI, p.C1.

Coaches See. (1935, Nov. 13). Coaches see lack of supervision as cause of deaths. Reading Times PA, p.13.

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Cohn, A. (1939, Nov. 4). And that’s what they call ‘courage.’ Oakland Tribune, p.10.

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Collingdale Leather. (1960, Jan. 15). Collingdale may shift to leather. Delaware Daily Times PA, p.16.

Comment Sports. (1909, Dec. 27). Comment on sports: Reform in football. New York Tribune, p.5.

Condones Habits. (1903, Feb. 12). Condones bad habits. Oakland Tribune, p.3.

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Currie, G. (1928, Nov. 5). Would an Oberlander have brought victory to Dartmouth? Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.36.

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Definition Sought. (1937, Feb. 28). Definition sought for ‘punch drunk’ in court battle. Atlanta Constitution, p.2B.

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Doctor Favors. (1961, Nov. 4). Doctor favors dropping face masks from football helmets. Appleton Post-Crescent WI, p.8.

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Fishbein, M. (1928, Oct. 25). Brain often injured by punches in prize ring. Franklin News-Herald PA, p.9.

Fishbein, M. (1933, Oct. 10). Six rules for safety—medical authorities on athletics set down requirements to guard against injuries in fall sports. Bradford Evening Daily Record PA, p.2.

Fishbein, M. (1933, Oct. 19). Daily hints on health. Manitowac Herald-Times WI, p.5.

Fishbein, M. (1934, Sept. 23). Guard gridsters against injuries from bruises. Brownsville Herald TX, p.4.

Fishbein, M. (1939, Sept. 21). Coaches should watch for concussion, tape ankles, knees of grid players. Manitowoc Herald-Times WI, p.4.

Fishbein, M. (1940, Feb. 21). Internal effect of head blow is a puzzle to medical profession. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.10.

Fodder Box. (1932, Nov. 27). Fodder for sports from the press box. Bluefield Daily Telegraph WV, p.9.

Foot Ball. (1886, Dec. 5). Foot ball. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.1.

Foot Ball. (1887, Nov. 13). Foot-ball. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.14.

Foot Ball. (1888, Dec. 2). Foot-ball. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

Foot Ball. (1890, Dec. 3). Foot-ball vs. prize-fighting. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.10.

Foot Ball. (1895, Sept. 26). Foot ball and prize fighting, Greenville Record-Argus PA, p.4.

Foot Ball. (1901, Nov. 14). Foot-ball. Philadelphia Times, p.12.

Foot-Ball’s Victim. (1896, Nov. 19). Foot-ball’s victim. Lawrence Weekly World KS, p.5.

Football. (1902, Oct. 30). Football. Vancouver Daily World, British Columbia, Canada.

Football. (1910, Sept. 17). Football. Coshocton Daily Age OH, p.7.

Football Armor. (1897, Oct. 3). Football armor: Changes in the devices for players this year. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.38.

Football Armor. (1899, Dec. 21). Football armor. Marion Crittenden Press KY, p.6.

Football Changed. (1888, May 7). Football rules changed. New York Times, p.1.

Football Crippler. (1939, Nov. 9). Football is a crippler. Whitewright Sun TX, p.4.

Football Dangerous. (1908, Oct. 28). Football dangerous, as record shows. Salt Lake Tribune, p.11.

Football Death. (1895, Dec. 5). Football causes death. Belle Plaine News KS, p.2.

Football Factor. (1911, Jan. 31). Football factor for evil. Syracuse Post-Standard NY, p.10.

Football Fight. (1905, Feb. 2). Football is a fight, says President Eliot. New York Times, p.6.

Football Games. (1892, March 6). Football games: Plenty of blood spilled at Central Park. San Francisco Chronicle, p.17.

Football Headgear. (1903, Aug. 17). Foot ball players head gear. Mount Carmel Daily News PA, p.1.

Football Hurt. (1901, Sept. 28). Football player hurt at Stanford. San Francisco Chronicle, p.4.

Football Injuries. (1894, May 8). Football injuries. New York Tribune, p.4.

Football Injury. (1915, Dec. 6). Football injury may have been responsible: Raymond E. Yerger, former high school athlete, a suicide in state hospital. Allentown Democrat PA, p.5.

Football Killed. (1914, Oct. 13). Football player killed. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.14.

Football List. (1926, Dec. 9). Football list deaths smaller. Whitewright Sun TX, p.6.

Football Menace. (1910, Jan. 12). Football menace is diving tackle, says expert. Monongahela Daily Republican PA, p.3.

Football Notes. (1893, Nov. 8). Football notes. Topeka Daily Capital KS, p.4.

Football Rules. (1912, Sept. 23). Football rules for 1912. Greensboro Daily News NC, p.2.

Football Squad. (1913, Oct. 9). Football squad has first workout of season. Winston-Salem Journal NC, p.7.

For Safer. (1910, Jan. 26). For safer football. Washington Herald DC, p.8.

Forced Quit. (1909, Nov. 18). Forced to quit school. Newport Miner WA, p.8.

Fordham Star. (1931, Dec. 3). Fordham star dies of hurts and sets sports-loving fans wondering of aftermath. Danville Bee VA, p.8.

Former Star. (1928, Nov. 30). Former Yale star beats up his wife. Helena Independent Record MT, p.1.

Fraley, O. (1961, Oct. 30). Manufacturer defends plastic grid helmet. Redlands Daily Facts CA, p.9.

Frank, N. (1934, Dec. 29). It just occurred to me. Harrisburg Telegraph PA, p.8.

Frank Scully. (1937, Sept. 30). Frank Scully gives inside dope. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.28.

Friedman Safety. (1934, April 27). Friedman for safety. New York Times, p.28.

Geary, M.J. (1892, Dec. 4). Seen by a novice. San Francisco Call, p.8.

Gemmell, R. (1939, March 31). Sport sparks. Oregon Statesman, p.17.

Georgia Tech. (1929, Jan. 2). Georgia Tech wins national title by defeating California: Was Riegels punch-drunk when he made that weird run? Portsmouth Daily Times OH, p.12.

Getty, F. (1928, April 14). Sportsmatter. Klamath News OR, p.2.

Goals Touchdowns. (1890, Nov. 2). Goals and touchdowns. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.8.

Gold Triumphs. (1911, Dec. 1). Gold and black triumphs over Sewanee purple. Nashville Tennessean and Nashville American, p.1.

Goss Coach. (1904, Oct. 10). Goss to coach. Minneapolis Journal, p.14.

Got Craze. (1914, Dec. 9). Got murder craze from gridiron kick. Greenwood Daily Journal SC, p.5.

Gould, A. (1930, Jan. 28). Sports slants. Miami Daily News-Record OK, p.5.

Government Study. (1936, April 27). Government to make study of punch drunks [London]. Big Spring Daily Herald TX, p.8

Government Waste. (1936, May 26). Government waste held ‘punch-drunk.’ Ogden Standard-Examiner UT, p.10.

Graves, E. (1921, Oct. 2). The line’s the thing, says Maj. Graves. Boston Daily Globe, p.E5.

Grid News. (1933, Oct. 17). Grid news and views from B.H.S. Blytheville Courier News AR, p.6.

Grid Elbow. (1962, Jan. 8). Grid elbow big weapon. Brandon Sun, Manitoba, Canada, p.9.

Gridder Recovering. (1919, Oct. 2). Gridder recovering. Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.14.

Gridder Saved. (1942, April 21). Gridder saved by plastic helmet. New Philadelphia Daily Times OH, p.5.

Gridiron Gossip. (1906, Sept. 30). Gridiron gossip. Washington Post, p.3.

Griffen, C.R. (1933, Jan. 31). Daily cross-word puzzle. New York Herald Tribune, p.31.

Grist Mill. (1934, Dec. 19). Grist From The sports mill. Hartford Courant CT, p.16.

Guardian For. (1917, April 3). Guardian for Wolgast. Wichita Beacon KS, p.7.

Guidry, B. (1960, Aug. 7). Racing helmets on Hobbs gridiron? Hobbs Daily News-Sun NM, p.7.

Hailey, A. (1939, Sept. 10). Boxing leaders plan knockout blows against fight game’s evils. Washington Post, p.B7.

Hailey, F. (1934, Dec. 28). Challenge to reduce football casualties issued by professor. Salem Daily Capital Journal OR, p.9.

Hand, J. (1955, June 10). New York physician calls other sports tougher than boxing. Escanaba Daily Press MI, p.12.

Harness Football. (1900, Nov. 12). Harness in football, Fort Wayne Daily News IN, p.8.

Harrison, E.A. (2014, May). The first concussion crisis: Head injury and evidence in early American football. American Journal of Public Health, 104 (5), pp.822-33.

Harry Forbes. (Nov. 4, 1919). Harry Forbes says healer will help him. Bloomington Pantagraph IL, p.15.

Harvard Expected. (1928, Nov. 24). Harvard expected to take important game in New England today. Coshocton Tribune OH, p.6.

Harvard Jolted. (1911, Nov. 12). Harvard is jolted by the Carlisle Indians. Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.18.

Harvard Student. (1885, Nov. 12). A Harvard student fatally injured. Lebanon Daily News PA, p.1.

Harvard Students. (1895, Feb. 21). Harvard students angry. New York World, p.6.

Harvard’s Team. (1892, Nov. 20). Harvard’s football team beaten six to nothing. New York Herald, p.1.

Head Blocking. (1962, Oct. 24). Head blocking under scrutiny. Beckley Post-Herald WV, p.2.

Head-On Collision. (1933, Sept. 28). Head-on collision results in grid death in East. Fresno Bee Republican CA, p.30.

Headgear Report. (1962, May 22). Headgear report is made public. Gettysburg Times PA, p.5.

Health Hygiene. (1936, Nov. 9). Health and hygiene: Football and head injuries. Sault Marie Evening News MI, p.4.

Henry, B. (1924, Nov. 2). California Bears rout Trojans in sensational battle. Los Angeles Times, p.A1.

Herald Class. (1935, Aug. 11). Herald Tribune football class to hear Little explain defense: Columbia coach to lecture on unique style of line play, blocking, tackling. New York Herald Tribune, p.B5.

Hilton, M. (1958, Nov. 4). Protest jumping on University Trojan coach [LTE]. Waco News-Herald TX, p.4.

Hitting Line. (1923, Sept. 13). Football lessons, hitting the line. Decatur Herald IL, p.16.

Hollingworth, F. (1963, April 11). Sports merry-go-round: Doctors argue on boxing! Long Beach Independent CA, p.39.

Homicidal From. (1914, Dec. 6). Homicidal from football. Washington Post, p.19.

How Played. (1887, Nov. 25). How it is played. Fitchburg Sentinel MA, p.4.

How Won. (1891, Nov. 27). How the game was won. New York Times, p.2.

Hughes, E. (1931, Oct. 18). Those ‘punch drunk’ scrimmagers. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.31.

Hughes, E. (1936, March 27). Punch-drunks. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.28.

Hughes, E. (1937, April 12). “On account of repeated beatings.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.18.

Humble Cornell. (1899, Oct. 15). Humble Cornell’s pride. Chicago Daily Tribune.

Hurt Memory. (1900, Nov. 13). Hurt at football, lost memory. Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.6.

Husband Slays. (1933, Sept. 25). Husband slays wife. Kingsport Times TN, p.3.

Hyman, H.T. (1961, Jan. 3). The doctor talks about: Head injury. Troy Record NY, p.6.

Indiana Drill. (1910, June 9). Indiana drill shows new football rough. Indianapolis News, p.12.

Indiana News. (1917, Jan. 31). Indiana news in brief. Indianapolis News, p.15.

Indians Good. (1895, Nov. 29). Indians play good football. New York Times, p.6.

Indians Practice. (1899, Dec. 13). Indians practice on Folsom Street field. San Francisco Chronicle, p.14.

Ingram, B. (1935, Oct. 30). As I was saying. El Paso Herald-Post TX.

Injured Gridder. (1937, Oct. 26). Injured gridder to play. Fresno Bee CA, p.10.

Inquiry Save. (1888, April 25). Inquiry to save Busch’s life. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.7.

Inter Collegiate. (1887, March 27). Inter-college foot-ball. Philadelphia Times, p.2.

Intercollegiate Foot-Ball. (1889, March 21). Intercollegiate foot-ball. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.2.

Interest Football. (1889, Nov. 30). Interest in foot-ball. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.4.

Investigation Proves. (1909, Dec. 26). Investigation proves injuries in football have been exaggerated. Chicago Inter Ocean.

Iola Theatre. (1934, Aug. 2). The Three Stooges “Punch Drunk” [advertisement]. Iola Register KS, p.8.

Irish Prepared. (1933, Sept. 1). Irish trainer prepared for 1,440 “knock outs.” Rushville Republican IN, p.3.

Is Football? (1894, Dec. 13). Is football too brutal to play? Winnipeg Tribune, Manitoba, Canada, p.2.

It Was. (1889, Nov. 29). It was a hard fought contest. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.2.

It’s Dementia. (1938, Jan. 16). It’s ‘dementia pugilistica’ and not ‘punch drunk.’ New York Times, p.67.

Jab, J. (1911, April 14). Fistic foibles. Pittsburgh Press, p.27.

JAMA. (1906, Jan. 13). Surgical aspects of football [editorial]. Journal of the American Medical Association, 46 (2), pp.122-23.

Johnston, A. (1887, October). The American game of football. The Century Illustrated Magazine Monthly Magazine, 34 (6).

Keane, A.W. (1931, July 11). Calling ’em right. Hartford Courant CT, p.12.

Keane, A.W. (1934, Jan. 26). Calling ’em right. Hartford Courant CT, p.16.

Keane, A.W. (1938, June 1). Calling ’em right. Hartford Courant CT, p.11.

Kegg, J.S. (1962, Feb. 6). Tapping the sports Kegg. Cumberland Evening Times MD, p.10.

Kemble, R.P. (1937, Feb. 10). Odds and ends. Mount Carmel Item PA, p.2.

Kicking Foot Ball. (1892, Oct. 24). Kicking the foot ball. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.8.

Kiernan, J. (1933, Feb. 12). Sport of the times. New York Times, p.54.

Kilbane, J. (1939, July 16). “Let’s make them right.” Los Angeles Times, p.13.

Knute Knows. (1930, Dec. 23). Knute knows best. Hamilton Journal News OH, p.6.

Laid Rest. (1915, Dec. 10). Laid to rest. Allentown Leader PA, p.6.

Lake Forest. (1899, Oct. 22). Lake Forest player is injured. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.22.

Latest Football. (1940, Oct. 16). Latest in football fashion [photo cutline]. Chapel Hill Daily Tar Heel NC, p.3.

Laugh At. (1894, Feb. 10). Laugh at the anti-football bill. New York World, p.6.

Lee, B. (1945, Dec. 1). Will malice toward none. Hartford Courant CT, p.9.

Lewis, G.M. (1965). The American Intercollegiate Football Spectacle, 1869-1917. University of Maryland: College Park.

Like Knights. (1937, Oct. 25). Like knights of old. Mount Carmel Item PA, p.5.

Linthicum, J.A. (1932, Aug. 7). Ring and rasslin’ racket. Baltimore Sun, p.S5.

Little Mike. (1909, Nov. 7). Little Mike Walker is one of the smallest coaches, and likewise one of the quietest. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.2S.

Local Football. (1920, Nov. 20). Local football team will have hard week. Richmond Times-Dispatch, p.3.

Local Wise. (1895, Oct. 3). Local and other-wise. Fayette County Leader IA, p.8.

Locals Walk. (1917, Sept. 30). Locals walk away from Tuscola High, 37 to 13. Decatur Herald IL, p.8

Lockwood, P.E. (1926, Nov. 26). Hanson’s field day is Lions’ doomsday. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.26.

Lost Points. (1892, Oct. 30). Lost by two points. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.6.

Magazines. (1885, Aug. 13). Magazines. Washington National Tribune DC, p.8.

Mal Stevens. (1951, Nov. 17). Mal Stevens to head N.Y. boxing board. Decatur Herald IL, p.4.

Mal Stevens. (1962, Sept. 9). Mal Stevens sees night football boosting injuries: It’s basically a safe game. Boston Globe, p.A44.

Many Changes. (1910, Jan. 9). Many changes suggested in football rules by former college players. Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.17.

Maroons Arrive. (1898, Oct. 31). Maroons arrive today. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.4.

Marsh, I.T. (1952, Nov. 21). College viewpoint. New York Herald Tribune, p.24.

Martland, H.S. (1928, Oct. 13). Punch drunk. Journal of the American Medical Association, 91 (15), pp.1103-07.

Martland Retires. (1953, Nov. 26). ‘Medical Sherlock Holmes’: Martland, radiation expert, retires as Essex examiner. New York Herald Tribune, p.16.

McCormack, P. (1960, Aug. 21). Medics decry athletics. Los Angeles Times, p.K10.

McGeehan, W.O. (1929, Jan. 29). The strenuous game. New York Herald Tribune, p.25.

McGeehan, W.O. (1929, Nov. 26). And so it goes. New York Herald Tribune, p.38.

McGeehan, W.O. (1932, Aug. 23). Down the line. New York Herald Tribune, p.19.

McGill, R. (1932, Feb. 16). Break of the day! Atlanta Constitution, p.10.

McIntyre, G.R. (1932, Nov. 10). Chaff’n chatterR. Appleton Post-Crescent WI, p.13.

Medical Notes. (1887, April 7). Medical notes. Abilene Weekly Reflector KS, p.6.

Memorable Day. (1910, June 22). Memorable day for Allentown H.S. graduates. Allentown Democrat PA, pp.1-7.

Menke, F.C. (1926, Oct. 26). Will to win gets outstanding call on football field. Charleston Gazette WV, p.8.

Mental Test. (1939, Dec. 28). Boxing solon suspends 81 fighters: Mental test may bar punch drunk fighters. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.18.

Mentally Deranged. (1914, Dec. 1). Mentally deranged result of injury. Allentown Leader PA, p.1.

Metzger, S. (1925, Oct. 5). Football secrets. Boston Daily Globe, p.6.

Metzger, S. (1925, Oct. 31). Football secrets. Boston Daily Globe, p.12.

Midshipmen Wilson. (1909, Nov. 1). Midshipmen Wilson dying from football injuries. Atlanta Constitution, p.6.

Might Bowl. (1960, Nov. 8). Might have Bowl here. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal TX, p.27.

Millard, H. (1935, Oct. 9). Bait and bugs. Decatur Daily Review IL, p.20.

Mitten Pastime. (1924, Nov. 4). Mitten pastime in tangled mess. Lincoln Star NE, p.10.

Montenigro, P.H., Corp, D.T., Stein, T.D., Cantu, R.C., & Stern, R.A. (2015, March). Chronic traumatic encephalopathy: Historical origins and current perspective. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 11, pp.309-30.

Mooney, J. (1959, May 27). Sports mirror. Salt Lake Tribune, p.13.

Morrison, T. (1961, Jan. 8). On the sidelines. Idaho State Journal, p.11.

Mr. Walter Camp. (1890, Nov. 29). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] Winnipeg Tribune, Manitoba, Canada, p.4.

Mulling Athletics. (1937, Nov. 18). Mulling over athletics. Chapel Hill Daily Tar Heel NC, p.2.

Murray, T. (1958, Oct. 22). Gulf Coast sports. La Marque Times TX, p.8.

New Armor. (1903, Aug. 10). New football armor. York Daily PA, p.4.

New Blocking. (1958, Sept. 14). New blocking rule may result in raft of shoulder injuries. Terre Haute Tribune IN, p.34.

New Football. (1903, Aug. 8). New football devices. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.29.

New Gridiron. (1912, Feb. 18). New gridiron game is just Yale’s kind. Anaconda Standard MT, p.23.

New Helmet. (1943, July 2). New helmet is much better. Cumberland News MD, p.4.

New Rules. (1887, Oct. 29). New foot-ball rules. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.8.

New Rules. (1910, April 9). New football rules make safer game. Winfield Daily Press KS, p.7.

News Day. (1939, Sept. 28). News of the day. Van Nuys News CA, p.6.

Nichols, E.H., & Smith, H.B. (1906, Jan. 4). The physical aspect of American football. Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 154 (1), pp.1-8.

No Mollycoddles. (1907, Feb. 24). No mollycoddles, says Roosevelt. New York Times, p.1.

No More. (1883, Nov. 23). No more football at Harvard. New York Times, p.1.

Notes From. (1939, Nov. 7). Notes from a football pressbox. Logansport Pharos-Tribune IN, p.2.

O’Brien, J. (1938, Dec. 1). Canonsburg cannonades. Canonsburg Daily Notes PA, p.8.

Of Interest. (1893, Aug. 10). Of interest to athletes. Leavenworth Weekly Times KS, p.5.

Office Wife. (1938, Dec. 18). ‘Office wife’ was punch drunk when she slew. Atlanta Constitution, p.16A.

Official Doctor. (1929, Feb. 8). Official urges doctor on every gridiron. New York Times, p.25.

Old Harvard. (1898, Jan. 27). Old Harvard’s place. Boston Daily Globe, p.1.

Old Nassau. (1893, Nov. 5). Old Nassau won. New York World, p.12.

Old No. 39. (1940, Nov. 20). Old No. 39 has one more official ‘run’ to make. Christian Science Monitor, p.15.

O’Hara, B. (1908, Jan. 12). Lightweights in limelight now. Detroit Free Press, p.15.

On Field. (1890, Nov. 16). On the football field. New York Tribune, p.16.

On Gridiron. (1894, Nov. 11). On the gridiron. Salt Lake Herald UT, p.8.

On Screen. (1932, July 18). On the screen. New York Herald Tribune, p.8.

Oriard, M. (1993). Reading Football: How the Popular Press Created an American Spectacle. University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC.

Oriard, M. (2001). King Football: Sport & Spectacle in the Golden Age of Radio & Newsreels, Movies & Magazines, The Weekly & The Daily Press. University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC.

Osnato, M. (1929, May 14-17). The Role of Trauma in Various Neuropsychiatric Conditions. Presentation for American Psychiatric Association, Atlanta, GA.

Osnato, M., & Giliberti, V. (1927, March). Postconcussion neurosis-traumatic encephalitis: A conception of postconcussion phenomena. Archives and Neurology & Psychiatry, 18 (2), pp.181-214.

Osteopath Tells. (1915, Jan. 30). Osteopath tells of clouded minds cleared by relieving nerve pressure. Fort Scott Daily Monitor KS, p.8.

Paragraphic Punches. (1897, Nov. 24). Paragraphic punches. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.6.

Paragraphs Films. (1936, May 31). Paragraphs on Brooklyn films. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.41.

Parrot, H.E. (1931, Dec. 9). Poor conditioning cause of epidemic of football injuries, says trainer. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.25.

Parson-Boxer. (1929, Feb. 7). Parson-Boxer wanted to throw wife out of window: Punch-drunk. Portsmouth Daily Times OH, p.16.

Payne, C.H. (1893, Jan. 11). The morals of intercollegiate games. Raleigh Christian Advocate NC, p.1.

Pearce, J.M.S. (2008, February). Observations on concussion: A review. European Neurology, 59 (3-4), pp.113-119.

Peck, T. (1936, Oct. 31). Michigan will meet Illinois. Escanaba Daily Press MI, p.16.

Pennsylvania Favors. (1893, Dec. 10). Pennsylvania favors a change. New York World, p.12.

Pennsylvania Legislature. (1897, Feb. 26). Pennsylvania legislature. New Bethlehem Vindicator PA, p.8.

People Events. (1895, Feb. 14). People and events. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.6.

Perry, L. (1929, Feb. 18). For the game’s sake. Altoona Mirror PA, p.15.

Pigskin Pickings. (1933, Oct. 13). Pigskin pickings. San Bernardino County Sun CA, p.18.

Pitcher Morris. (1887, Oct. 16). Pitcher Morris severely injured. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.13.

Plastic Helmet. (1940, Nov. 3). Plastic football helmet used by Northwestern. Kingsport Times TN, p.7.

Plumb, R.K. (1960, June 22). Neurosurgeons study knockout physiology. New York Times, p.38.

Polakoff, J. (1935, Oct. 24). Polley’s chatter. Scranton Republican PA, p.16.

Post Mortems. (1932, Dec. 28). Post mortems. Washington Post, p.11.

Povich, S. (1937, Jan. 11). This morning… with Shirley Povich. Washington Post, p.14.

Povich, S. (1937, Oct. 20). At the free lunch for overgrown kids. Washington Post, p.19.

Pratt Drops. (1906, Oct. 26). Pratt drops football because of danger. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.1.

Present Rules. (1926, Jan. 2). Present football rules are satisfactory in opinion of the Football Coaches Ass’n. Bryan Eagle TX, p.3.

President’s Day. (1907, Feb. 24). President’s busy day in Boston and in Cambridge. Boston Daily Globe, p.1.

Press Box. (1926, Nov. 10). The press box. Bluefield Daily Telegraph WV.

Princeton Re-Enforced. (1893, Nov. 20). Princeton is well re-enforced. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.4.

Princeton Wins. (1886, Nov. 14). Princeton wins again. New York Sun, p.2.

Princeton’s Opening. (1889, Oct. 6). Philadelphia Times, p.3.

Princeton’s Protest. (1887, Nov. 18). Princeton’s foot-ball protest. Philadelphia Times, p.1.

Pringle Over. (1898, Nov. 25). Pringle went over line for a touchdown for the University of California. San Francisco Call, p.2.

Proceedings AFCA. (1937, Dec. 29). Proceedings of the Seventeenth Annual Meeting of the American Football Coaches Association. AFCA.

Protesting Football. (1893, Dec. 1). Protesting against football. Allentown Leader PA, p.4.

Punch Drunk. (1928, Oct. 22). ‘Punch drunk’ may apply in other sports. Bismarck Tribune ND, p.1.

Punch Drunk. (1937, April 26). Punch drunk. Anniston Star AL, p.4.

Punch-Drunk Boxer. (1937, June 5). Punch-drunk boxer compensation claim fails. Sydney Morning Herald, Australia.

Punch-Drunk Football. (1937, Sept. 29). Punch-drunk football stars! Atlanta Constitution, p.8.

Punch-Drunk Forger. (1932, July 12). Punch-drunk forger gets parole here. Belvidere Republican-Northwestern IL, p.6.

Punch Drunkenness. (1928, Oct. 19). Punch drunkenness is found outside the boxing profession. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.31.

Punch Drunkenness. (1957, Feb. 19). Punch drunkenness can cripple boxers for life. Oxnard Press-Courier CA, p.11.

Rah! Rah! (1889, Nov. 29). Rah! Rah! Rah! Rah! Cincinnati Enquirer, p.2.

Ralph Missing. (1892, Jan. 1). Ralph H. Warren missing. New York Sun, p.2.

Reading Kick. (1914, Dec. 3). Reading High kick blamed for crazy of Allentown. Reading Times PA, p.1.

Reddy, B. (1949, Aug. 25). Keeping posted. Syracuse Post-Standard NY, p.12.

Redskins Bothered. (1937, Dec. 11). Redskins bothered by wintry blasts. New York Times, p.13.

Reform Football. (1909, Jan. 16). Reform in football. New York Tribune, p.10.

Reformed Foot-Ball. (1894, Oct. 30). Reformed foot-ball. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle NY, p.6.

Reichert, J.L., Glasscock, E.L., Logan, G.B., Maksim, G., Moody, E.E., Shaffer, T.E., Stuart, H.C., & Yankauer, A. (1956, October). Report: Committee on school health: Competitive athletics: A statement of policy [American Academy of Pediatrics]. Pediatrics, 18 (4), pp.672-76.

Rice, G. (1926, Nov. 15). Notre Dame, Navy, Brown, Stanford, Lafayette, NYU, Alabama leading unbeaten elevens. New York Herald Tribune, p.19.

Rice, G. (1931, Dec. 5). Grantland Rice’s sport light. Lincoln Evening Journal NE, p.8.

Rice, G. (1937, May 26). If kid has any knack, boxing is career, Leonard tells Rice. Baltimore Sun, p.19.

Richards, E.L. (1894, October). The football situation. Popular Science Monthly, 45, pp.721-33.

Richardson, W.D. (1940, Oct. 23). LaManna and Frank to see action for N.Y.U. on Saturday. New York Times, p.29.

Rigid Exams. (1962, Jan. 11). Rigid exams urged for grid players. Ogden Standard-Examiner UT, p.24.

Ring Official. (1936, Sept. 17). Ring official once fought as a pro. Washington Post, p.X19.

Ripley, R.L. (1919, Aug. 25). Gameness is usually associated with boxing. Houston Post, p.7.

Rising Deaths. (1961, Oct. 13). Rising grid deaths cause concern. Kansas City Times, p.30.

Roosevelt Crusade. (1905, Oct. 10). Roosevelt in new crusade. Chicago Tribune, p.1.

Roosevelt Robe. (1910, May 27). Roosevelt in red robe. Baltimore Sun, p.2.

Rules Exercise. (1891, May 3). Rules of exercise. Pittsburgh Dispatch, p.10.

Rules Manly. (1883, Nov. 24). Rules for a manly sport. New York Times, p.4.

Runyon, D. (1929, Nov. 7). Runyon says. Harrisburg Evening News PA, p.28.

Russell, D. (1962, Feb. 1). Rustlin’ sports: Trainers meeting will get attention. Albuquerque Journal, p.15.

Ryan, A.J. (1962, Sept. 2). Let’s stop football tragedies. The Week magazine, Salt Lake Tribune, p.95.

Safer Football. (1906, Nov. 27). Safer football. Hutchinson News KS, p.2.

Safer Football. (1909, Dec. 22). Safer football aim of experts. Bismarck Tribune ND, p.10.

Says Dangerous. (1906, July 3). Says athletics are dangerous to life. Indianapolis News, p.10.

Says Insane. (1928, March 13). Says he was insane when he killed wife. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.21.

Savage, H.J., Bentley, H.W., McGovern, J.T., & Smiley, D.F. (1929). American College Athletics: Bulletin Number Twenty-Three. Carnegie Foundation: New York.

Saxton Case. (1962, Feb. 8). Saxton case dismissed. New York Times, p.20.

Schneider, R.C., Reifel, E., Crisler, H.O., & Oosterbaan, B.G. (1961, Aug. 12). Serious and fatal football injuries involving the head and spinal cord. Journal of the American Medical Association, 177 (6), pp.362-67.

Schuylkill Victory. (1928, Oct. 15). Schuylkill victory not as impressive as score indicates. Reading Times PA, p.13.

Scraps. (1887, Dec. 2). “Scraps.” Indianapolis News, p.2.

Scrimmages Harmful. (1931, Oct. 17). Scrimmages harmful to team, Michigan State coach asserts. New York Times, p.18.

Scully Claims. (1937, Sept. 29). Scully claims that football changes players into ‘stumble backs,’ half-wits. Columbia Daily Spectator NY, p.3.

Season Close. (1909, Nov. 27). Season just closed most disastrous in history of football; 29 men killed. Topeka Daily Capital KS, p.1.

Sembower, J.F. (1961, Nov. 22) Players “wired” for sound probe cause of grid hurts. Circleville Herald OH, p.15.

Sheldon Ban. (1910, Jan. 22). Sheldon would put ban on high school game. Indianapolis News, p.8.

Shell-Shock Misnomer. (1931, Aug. 10). Shell-shock misnomer. Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger IN, p.4.

Shock Battle. (1915, June 8). Shock of battle causes rare ills. Bremen Enquirer IN, p.4.

Sidney Blackmer. (1920, May 30). Sidney Blackmer trains for stage as he did when playing football, he says. New York Tribune, p.B1.

Sideline Slants. (1937, Oct. 5). Sideline slants. Stanford Daily CA, p.3.

Sixty-Two Safer. (1905, Dec. 29). Sixty-two colleges for safer football. Harrisburg Daily Independent PA, p.4.

Smith, D.K. (1963, April 9). No butting. Ames Daily Tribune IA, p.9.

Smith, R. (1957, Dec. 25). Red Smith. New York Herald Tribune, p.B1.

Some Ex-Fighters. (1930, Aug. 11). Some ex-fighters on Easy Street. Daily Boston Globe, p.9.

Sport Comments. (1934, Jan. 5). Sport comments. De Kalb Daily Chronicle IL, p.6.

Sport Tips. (1938, Sept. 21). Sport tips. Frederick News MD, p.6.

Sporting News. (1901, Feb. 4). Sporting news in general. Oshkosh Daily Northwestern WI, p.3.

Sports Air. (1887, Nov. 27). Sports in the open air. New York Tribune, p.2.

St. John’s Prepping. (1933, Oct. 25). St. John’s is prepping for Hopkins game. Hagerstown Daily Mail MD, p.7.

Starnes, R. (1961, Nov. 24). Richard Starnes says: Football has its tragedies. Delaware County Times PA, p.4.

Steelton Wins. (1904, Oct. 31). Steelton wins by one point. Harrisburg Telegraph PA, p.6.

Steps Suggested. (1961, Oct. 14). Steps for curbing accidents suggested. Corpus Christi Caller TX, p.21.

Stevens, M.A., & Phelps, W.M. (1933). The Control of Football Injuries. A.S. Barnes and Company: New York.

Stop Tragedies. (1931, Dec. 10). Stop these football tragedies! Canandaigua Daily Messenger NY, p.10.

Strong Words. (1905, Nov. 27). Strong words from U. of C. Chicago Tribune, p.2.

Stroop, J.R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 18, pp.643-62.

Students Stop. (1909, Nov. 2). Students stop all athletics. Scranton Truth PA, p.9.

Suicide Story. (1905, Dec. 1). Suicide story an absurdity, Clark says. Minneapolis Journal, p.14.

Surgeons Score. (1906, Jan. 6). Surgeons score gridiron sport. Greensboro Daily Industrial News NC, p.3.

Sustains Injury. (1914, Nov. 24). Sustains curious football injury. Escanaba Morning Press MI, p.5.

Swords Gloves. (1930, May 30). Swords and gloves. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.16.

Sylvester, H. (1935, Sept. 8). Sporting chances. New York Herald Tribune, p.SM16.

Tackling Rule. (1908, Nov. 7). Tackling not now a matter of strict rule. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p.6.

Taube, M. (1940, Nov. 3). Gridiron success is achieved by faithful practice of fundamentals. Hartford Courant CT, p.D3.

Tech Suggests. (1909, Nov. 23). Tech suggest rule changes. Atlanta Constitution, p.10.

Telander, R. (1989). The Hundred Yard lie: The Corruption of College Football and What We Can Do to Stop It. Simon and Schuster: New York.

Tells Insanity. (1909, Nov. 27). Tells of insanity in Ellis family. Daily Arkansas Gazette, p.1.

The Bag. (1893, Sept. 23). The tackling bag. San Francisco Chronicle, p.9.

The Century. (1887, Sept. 27). The Century for October. Easton Star-Democrat PA, p.3.

The Cumnock. (1890, Nov. 2). The Cumnock nose mask. New York Times, p.2.

The Deadly. (1902, Dec. 13). The deadly pigskin. Atlanta Constitution, p.6.

The Faults. (1893, Nov. 27). The faults at football. New York Sun, p.6.

The Foot Ball Rules. (1894, May 30). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] Fort Scott Daily Monitor KS, p.2.

The Footballs. (1888, Nov. 29). The footballs. New York Evening World, p.1.

The Game. (1892, Dec. 19). The football game. San Francisco Morning Call, p.4.

The Growth. (1894, Oct. 28). The growth of football. New York Sun, p.20.

The New. (1906, Oct. 12). The new football. New York Times, p.8.

The News. (1894, Jan. 6). The news in brief. San Bernardino Weekly Courier CA, p.6.

The Toll. (1912, Jan. 13). Winnipeg Tribune, Manitoba, Canada, p.4.

The Sport. (1889, Nov. 19). The sport of the season. Wilkes-Barre Evening News PA, p.2.

Theodore Hurt. (1905, Nov. 19). Theodore hurt in game: President’s son carried from the field unable to stir. Washington Post, p.3.

They Can’t. (1894, Dec. 28). The can’t slug now. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.1.

This Game. (1895, Nov. 2). This game will show. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.4.

Tigers Win. (1899, Nov. 26). Tigers win great game. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.17.

To Reform. (1897, Dec. 10). To reform the game of football. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle NY, p.23.

To Make. (1894, Jan. 2). To make football less brutal. Kansas City Gazette KS, p.3.

Training For. (1899, Oct. 29). Training for football. Detroit Free Press, p.C3.

Transit Company. (1912, Aug. 31). Transit Company employees’ outing. Allentown Democrat PA, p.1.

Trevor, G. (1925, Feb. 4). Centre College’s famous tackle may yet wear Dempsey’s crown. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.19.

Trotter, W. (1924, May 10). On certain minor injuries of the brain. British Medical Journal, 1 (3306), pp.816-19.

Tunney Backs. (1937, Feb. 5). Tunney backs school boxing. Baltimore Sun, p.16.

Two Football Players. (1909, Oct. 11). [No headline or byline for stand-alone text in column.] Asbury Park Press NJ, p.4.

UM Surgeon. (1961, May 3). U-M surgeon suggests four changes in football helmets. Traverse City Record-Eagle MI, p.18.

Uncle Sam. (1941, July 31). Uncle Sam adopts sort of helmets used by gridders. Uniontown Evening Standard PA, p.10.

Van Dellen, T.R. (1963, Feb. 2). Boxing is not worth misery. Lake Charles American-Press LA, p.11.

Vicious Aggies. (1940, Nov. 17). Vicious Aggies gridmen trample Rice with power. Hartford Courant CT, p.C5.

Vidmar, R. (1939, Nov. 19). Down in front. New York Herald Tribune, p.B8.

Vital Changes. (1912, Feb. 14). Vital changes in football code. Honolulu Evening Bulletin, p.9.

Walsh, G. (1961, Nov. 6). 18 football deaths: Is it the helmet? Sports Illustrated, 15 (21) , pp.24-25.

Walter Camp. (1894, Jan. 20). Walter Camp favors new rules. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.6.

Walton, G. L. (1883, October 11). Possible cerebral origin of the symptoms usually classed under “railway brain.” Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 109 (15), pp.337-42.

War Pathologist. (1916, Oct. 6). War not near end, says pathologist, back in U.S. Indianapolis Star, p.7.

Warburg, J.R. (1932, Nov. 15). Talk about bridge. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, p.19.

Was Injured. (1900, Dec. 1). Was seriously injured. Philadelphia Times, p.5.

Watterson, J.S. (2000). College Football: History, Spectacle, Controversy. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore.

Weak Defense. (1898, Oct. 23). Weak in defense. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.30.

Wesleyan Last. (1888, Nov. 30). Wesleyan comes last. New York Tribune, p.8.

Wesleyan Rear. (1888, Nov. 30). Wesleyan in the rear. New York Times, p.8.

Wesleyan Wins. (1887, Nov. 25). Wesleyan wins: A very rough game in which Pennsylvania is defeated. Saint Paul Globe, p.1.

Wesleyan Wins. (1889, Nov. 29). Wesleyan wins. Lebanon Daily News PA, p.1.

Westwick’s Sport. (1955, Aug. 9). Westwick’s in the realm of sport. Ottawa Journal, Ontario, Canada, p.16.

Weyand, A.M.(1926). American Football. D. Appleton and Company: New York.

Where Killed. (1909, Nov. 2). Where the man—not the beast—is killed. Atlanta Constitution, p.6.

Why Fall. (1934, Nov. 6). Why stars fall. Albany Democrat-Herald GA, p.4.

Will Play. (1910, Nov. 10). Will play old rivals. Allentown Democrat PA, p.8.

Wines, F.H. (1895, Dec. 1). Cure for madness. New Orleans Times-Picayune, p.27.

Winkelman, N.W., & Eckel, J.L. (1934, May). Brain trauma: Histopathology during the early stages. Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry, 31 (5), pp.956-986.

Wisconsin Favorite. (1928, Nov. 24). Wisconsin is favorite. Bismarck Tribune ND, p.4.

Wolgast Guardian. (1917, April 3). Guardian for Wolgast. Wichita Beagle KS, p.7.

Yale End. (1904, Oct. 9). Yale loses end rush McMahon. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.3.

Yale Harvard. (1890, Nov. 18). Pittsburgh Daily Post, p.6.

Yale Hero. (1901, Nov. 26). Yale hero taken home. Chicago Daily Tribune, p.6.

Yale Princeton. (1892, Nov. 23). Yale vs. Princeton. New Castle News PA, p.1.

Yale’s Turn. (1887, Nov. 20). Yale’s turn to yell. Chicago Inter Ocean, p.1.

Young Boxers. (1932, Sept. 21). Young boxers exploited for gain become punch drunk wrecks. Boston Globe, p.23.

Young, S. (1942, Sept. 16). Canadian sport snapshots. Winnipeg Tribune, Manitoba, Canada, p.17.

Your Health. (1936, July 6). Your health. Monongahela Daily Republican PA, p.2.

Youth Football. (1959, Aug. 30). Youth football out. San Bernardino County Sun CA, p.56.

Zero Score. (1894, Oct. 28). Zero was the score. San Francisco Chronicle, p.17.

Copyright ©2016 for historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney

Matt Chaney is a writer, researcher and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football for three decades. Chaney, an MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Footballself-published in 2009Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at or visit the website for more information.

Denial of Brain Damage in Boxing: 1928-1961

By Matt Chaney,

Posted Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Copyright ©2016 for historical arrangement by Matthew L. Chaney

1928: ‘some brain experts deny that punch drunk exists,’ says Dr. Harrison S. Martland

Nov. 18, 1928, Baltimore Sun MD, p.LT12

Blood Clots Make Fighter Punch Drunk

Tiny Hemorrhages In Brain Responsible For Condition Says Physician Who Studied It

How hundreds of tiny blood clots, each no larger than a pinhead, may form inside the gray matter of the human brain and ruin its ability to think or to control the body, is explained by Dr. Harrison S. Martland, of Newark, N.J., in reporting to the American Medical Association the first scientific study every made of the unusual prize fighter’s disease, called “punch drunk.”

So little has this condition been studied by physicians, Dr. Martland reports, that there are even some brain experts who deny that it exists. Nevertheless Dr. Martland has compiled a list of twenty-three former fighters who show its symptoms; chiefly dragging of the legs or arms, uncertainties of movement and slowness in thinking and in speech.

Every experienced promoter or manager of fights or fighters is familiar, he says, with the occasional appearance of these symptoms in former sparring partners of hard-hitting champions or in other fighters accustomed to take heavy punishment, especially blows on the head or face. In an accident case which came under Dr. Martland’s observation a blow on the head caused, it was found on postmortem, hundreds of the tiny blood clots, each due to the rupture of a small blood vessel.

Not much blood escaped from any one break, but the presence of the many small clots in the substance of the brain damaged the organ, in this case fatally.

It is very probable, Dr. Martland believes, that repeated severe jars to the head like those received in prize fights may cause just such blood vessel ruptures, resulting in the disturbances of movement or of thinking which the “punch drunk” ex-fighter shows.

1929:  Carnegie Report cautions NCAA schools against hiring doctors who are sports fans

Nov. 9, 1929, Jefferson City Post-Tribune MO, p. 6

Daily Health Service

Editor’s Note: This is the last of four articles by [JAMA editor] Dr. Morris Fishbein on the hygiene of athletics.

By Dr. Morris Fishbein

Editor Journal of The American Medical Association and of Hygeia, the Health Magazine.

In its survey of the hygiene of athletics training, the special committee, working under the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, emphasizes its conviction that athletics if properly conducted may be made to contribute significantly  to the physical health of students.

They point out that exercises in general, and athletics in particular, are not a panacea for all forms of ill health from flat feet to melancholia.

Another point of view is that athletics are in the nature of remedies to be prescribed for one person in one strength and for another in another strength, and not to be at all for other persons.

The committee is convinced that adequate physical examinations and adequate medical care and supervision of athletics are not yet available in most institutions. It is urged that in case of accident, the physician and not the trainer should go on the field to determine the nature of the injury and advisability of continuing play. There must not be participation in an excessive number of sports.

Furthermore, the physician should not be chosen because of his super enthusiasm for athletics and his desire to win at any cost, but rather for his ability to judge in the type of injury which he is most often asked to see.

Some of the hygenic practices associated with high school and college athletics are so filthy that they would not be tolerated for a moment in any other department of life. it has been found that the same athletic clothing is worn without washing for a long period of time and in the case of track athletics, not infrequently for four years. On the football field, the common drinking cup, water bottle and sponge are used in an exceedingly unsanitary manner.

The general uncleanliness of athletic clothing, locker rooms and wrestling mats is largely responsible for the spread of ringworm and infections of the skin.

The most dangerous feature of all is the constant emphasis on winning at any costs. In order to correct this emphasis, there must be a change in the point of view.

1931:  ‘shell shock’ condition isn’t caused by warfare, say doctors and officers of militaries worldwide

Aug. 10, 1931, Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger IN, p.4


This country has been hearing a lot about shell-shock since the war and many have been acquainted with the former service men assumed to be suffering from this condition. According to the sixth international congress of military medicine and pharmacy, held at The Hague, there is no such thing as shell-shock and the term has been misapplied. A New York health commissioner was one of the delegates to the session, which discussed a variety of problems arising from wartime ills.

The medical men were convinced that the so-called victims of shell-shock entered the war already suffering from some form of neurosis. It is, of course, easily apparent that some types succumbed more readily to the excitement and strain than others. In its formal findings, the medical congress declared that the war had not created psychosis of a new type and that no new morbid entity had been observed. The terms “shell shock” and “post concussion syndrome,” the congress reported, “have been wrongly applied at times.”

In connection to criminal cases attributable to so-called shell shock, the congress recommended strongly that penal responsibility of the patient should be determined by a psychiatrist. That plan, of course, is only fair to both the prisoner and to society. The medical conference urged that an elaborate system of handling psychoneurotic persons should be instituted in war time. It also suggested a broader method of treatment for all those suffering from nervous disorders, dividing such victims into several classes and treating those deemed curable.

The report of the congress regarding shell-shock may provoke some discussion in this country when veterans are told that their condition is nothing more than a malady they already had before the war. It is true, of course, that a number of ills ascribed to army service were scarcely attributable to that cause. The cases of so-called shell shock, however, had usually been eliminated from that category.—Indianapolis Star

1932:  boxing promoter says ‘bad habits’ cause ‘punch drunk’ condition, not punches, throughout the general population

June 5, 1932, Hartford Courant CT, p.C5

Fighters Are Not Alone In Being ‘Punch Drunk’

Seattle, Wash.—(AP)—Bankers, bookkeepers, street car men or any other persons are just as apt to become “punch drunk” as boxers, declares Buddy Bishop, Seattle promoter, who has been connected with the boxing business for 40 years.

“Dissipations and not punches bring a boxer to the ‘punch drunk’ stage,” explained Bishop. “Bad liquor, later hours, unnatural habits and bad associates will make any person groggy in time. Boxers do not get ‘punch drunk’ from beatings.”

1936:  ‘boxing folks always say something else causes the wreck of a once-normal human being,’ scribe observes

March 27, 1936, Brooklyn Daily Eagle NY, p.28



Believe it or not, an English hospital is looking into this grisly business of fighters going “punch-drunk.” It wants to know what cause that, as our old friend Moran and Mack used to say, What is the matter with the poor was once explained by a Mr. B. Shaw. He said it was poverty. You become wealthy if you make a lot of money. Old age, it is now generally conceded, is caused by celebrating too many birthdays. And as surely, too many collisions with upholstered knuckles will produced the punch-drunk fighter.

It is all very simple, yet it is strange how many people like to make something very complex out of it. Particularly folks who live on and by the fight game. They are the last to admit that mere wallopings scramble a fighter’s brain, put mumbles in his speech, and locomotor ataxia in his nervous system. I have discussed the subject with hundreds of them, but usually the answer is the same. Always it is something else that caused the wreck of a once normal human being.

This is a case, undoubtedly, of the wish being father to the thought. But is is remarkable what a variety of thoughts, fancy flights of the imagination then can bring to bear on the subject. I once knew a young heavyweight of the give-and-take type whose eyesight became affected from too much punching about the head. Facing certain blindness he quit the ring. After that I met his manager. It was too bad he had to take so much punishment, I commiserated, only to learn that wasn’t the case at all!

“He didn’t get that from punchings,” explained the manager. “About a year ago he was in an automobile accident and the shock affected an optic nerve. He could never see right after that.” The manager talked as if he meant it. Possibly he had given the excuse so often that even he himself had come to believe it.


This form of self-hypnotism makes the subject construe beatings as merely incidental to the punch-drunk condition. One of the favorite “trances” of the sort has to do with dissipation and the fighting man. When a pug “goes bad,” mentally, you are always told that he tried to mix fighting with gay carryings-on.

One cannot fight in a weakened state, you are told, which is quite true. But the fact that few fighters do seems to be conveniently overlooked. They train hard for fights, and doctors who pass on them for condition always pronounce them in perfect shape, else they do not fight.

However, assume a scrapper is given to dissipation, you still find it is the the thrashings in the ring that class him as “punchy.” Many people dissipate more or less, a whole life long, but they do not become punch-drunk. They may suffer in other ways, but the only way one can become punch-drunk is by getting punched.

Where To Get It

Thus, if all the fighters who have the “wobbles” in their gait, and the “gargles” in their talk had never fought they wouldn’t be “punch-drunk,” would they? They couldn’t get it working in an office, driving a truck, painting a house, or along similar healthful trails of life. Only in the ring can they get it, and it is a fact that the clean living gladiator is as susceptible to it as his careless living fellow battler. Simply, the human frame was never designed to stand such persistent, skilled and savage hammering. But Cauliflower folk alone will not admit this, and the reason is natural. No one llikes to believe his life job is such as to drive him daffy.

And so an English fight trainer theorizes: “If only these men were to look after themselves more they would never reach the condition the doctors are seeking a cure for. For at least a week after a fight they would eat sparingly, take plenty of fresh air and hot baths, and also go in for massage. If this were done there would be far fewer punch-drunks.”

But a former champion fighter once told me that he saw Bob Fitzsimmons slam a rival on the temple, and that the victim was looney from this one wallop for the rest of his life. Just from that one soul-searing smash.

Maybe that wallop made him forget to eat sparingly, take plenty of fresh air and go in for massage.

1936:  Dempsey blames fighters for ‘punch drunk’ disease, not boxing

May 8, 1936, Scranton Republican PA, p.20


By Joe Polakoff, Sports Editor

PUNCH DRUNKS…Fighters get punch drunk because they let down too quickly after hard battles, says Jack Dempsey.

“Instead of sleeping and lolling around for a couple of days after a fight, they usually rush out of their dressing rooms and hit for a big party,” says Dempsey. “That relieves the pressure too fast and softens ’em up quickly. They become easier targets the next time out.”

Dempsey advocates two managers for each fighter, one to get matches and arrange the business end. The other to train the fighter properly.

1936:  new UMaryland boxing coach promises safe, old-time fighting in his program of the NCAA

Sept. 17, 1936, Washington Post DC, p.X19

Ring Official Once Fought As a Pro

Coach Has Been Referee for 30 Years, Sports Editor, Promoter

The University of Maryland’s stock on the collegiate clouting market zoomed yesterday with the announcement that Maj. Harvey. L. (Heinic) Miller, long a prominent figure in the fight game, had accepted the position of boxing coach for the Terrapin beak bangers.

Miller, who is secretary of the District Boxing Commission and editor of Our Navy, a monthly service publication, succeeds Capt. John W. Harmon and will be assisted by Lyman McAboy, a prominent contender in past Southern Conference championship meets.

Himself t one time a very good professional fighter, Miller has been prominently identified with the boxing business since his retirement from the ring. For a number of years he served as sports editor of a local paper and once was the leading promoter hereabouts in the days when boxing was “bootlegged” to the fistic fans in matches held just outside the District.

30 Years a Referee

Miller has been a referee for the past 30 years. He has served as an official referee for the Eastern Intercollegiate Boxing Association and the Southern Conference since 1925.

The major participated in 205 bouts during his fighting career. All but 22 of them were professional engagements, and he lost only six. he won the bantamweight championship of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps in a tournament at Newport, R.I., in 1906—two years after he started fighting. …

Miller is a veteran of the World War and saw service in Cuba, the Phillipines, China, Nicaragua and Mexico. he is a major in the Fleet Corps Reserves, commanding the Fifth Battalion of that organization.

Hopes For Real Boxers

“I want to get out a larger squad, preach loyalty and training,” said Miller yesterday, in discussing his appointment. “I shall actually get in the ring with my boys a couple of hours each day and see if we can’t do with a bunch of smart college ringmen something like Jack Blackburn has done with Louis. By that, I mean that we will try to bring back the 1900 style of feinting, counter-punching and on-balance hitting which was the vogue in the days when haphazard punches to non-vital spots were just as rare as tin ears and punch-drunk fisticuffians.”

1937:  ‘fear exaggerated’ for boxing in schools, NCAA, and benefits outweigh risks, says ex-champ

Feb. 5, 1937, Baltimore Sun MD, p.16


Hopes Virginia Will Not Ban Sport After Death of V.M.I. Boy

(By The Associated Press)

Richmond, Va., Feb. 4—Gene Tunney, former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, expressed the hope today that intercollegiate boxing would not be curtailed in Virginia as the result of the fatal injuries received by a V.M.I. cadet in a bout last week.

In a letter written to the Richmond Times-Dispatch from Washington, Tunney described the sport as a combination of “fine vigorous exercise with character building.”

Commenting on the action of his old Marine commander, Gen. John A. Lejeune, superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute, in canceling the ring schedule of the school after the death of Cadet W.J. Eastham, Tunney urged that the sport not be abandoned after this season.

“General Lejeune, my commander, loves a good scrap as well as anyone,” Tunney said. “He has always been very much interested in boxing. Of course, anyone would have closed the schedule under such circumstances.

“But to think that such an accident, serious as it is to the boy’s parents and friends, would bring about a movement to curtail all intercollegiate boxing throughout Virginia, is, I believe, rather saddening, particularly for those who have pictured the sport of boxing coming into its own through school and college interest.”

Referring to an editorial in the paper referring to “mental incompetency, due to pummeling of craniums,” Tunney said:

“It is my belief–after a long experience with amateur and professional boxers–that that fear is exaggerated. The punishment a young man in good physical condition sustains in a college boxing contest is insignificant compared with that which football players sustain in a game, or members of the crew bear in the course of a race.”

Pro Game Different

“Of course, when they change the atmosphere of the amateur ring to that of the professional ring, there is danger of eventual ‘punch drunk’ or incompetence in proportion to the increase and severity of the punishment.

“However, school and college boxing should not be concerned with these remote possibilities and, as one who has gone through hundreds of amateur and professional contests (not altogether unscathed, but still sound, I hope), and who has found only cleanness of body and development of character–the reward for those who know the wisdom of moderation—may appeal to you to throw the influence of your paper against the movement to curtail amateur school and college boxing in Virginia.

1937:  ‘punch drunk’ is unproven theory, non-existent in boxing, say ring supporters

April 26, 1937, Anniston Star AL, p.4

Punch Drunk

The least welcome topic of conversation among fight managers and promoters is boxing’s most prevalent occupational affliction: punch drunkenness.

Because they give the boxing game a brutal, unwholesome aura, “slap happy” or “punchy” ex-fighters, who have lost their mental balance from abnormal pounding on the head, are usually committed quietly to private or state institutions, occasionally taken care of generously by their former associates, and almost always forgotten thereafter.

Because even extensive laboratory tests have thus far failed to provide medical men with a complete explanation of this abnormality, only theory supports charges that the mumbling, hazy derelicts of boxing got that way from taking excessive punishment in the ring. Consequently, many of boxing’s ardent supporters defend the game by disavowing the existence of the affliction.—Literary Digest

1937:  allegedly punch-drunk boxers should blame themselves because many ex-boxers feel great, says ex-champion

May 26, 1937, Baltimore Sun MD, p.19

If Kid Has Any Knack, Boxing Is Career, Leonard Tells Rice

Ex-Champ Scores Warners—Points to Opportunities For Earnings and Broader Life If Boy Will Learn Hi Trade, Doesn’t Dissipate—And Has Equipment

By Grantland Rice

New York, May 25—Benny Leonard will argue with you all day if you intimate that professional boxing is not a desirable career for a young man—a young who, of course, is equipped to get somewhere with his fists.

“Naturally,” Benny says, “I wouldn’t advise a boy to start boxing professional who was doomed to stay in the preliminary ranks–anymore than I would advise him to be a tailor if I didn’t think he could make a suit of clothes. …”

“I love boxing. Boxing was very good to me–and there is no reason shy it shouldn’t be just as good to any other boys who takes it seriously and conducts himself decently.”

Why single out fighters?

“Why is it you newspaper fellows are always advising kids to stay away from the ring? Because you think they will spend the best years of their lives getting punched around and wind up with nothing, and that they’ll be lucky if they don’t wind up walking on their heels, eh?

“Why don’t you look at it this way? If a boy takes proper care of himself and learns how to box, the punishment he takes in the ring isn’t going to do him any harm. I can point out to you dozens of fellows–some of them ex-champions and some fellows in the ring for a long time–who are healthy middle-aged men and either comfortably fixed, or , with their ring days behind them, are earning good livings at something else.

“You say you can show me a lot of broken-down fighters, too. That’s right. But I can show you a lot of broken-down fellows who never had on a boxing glove in their lives. Misfortunes or dissipation have ruined many a ball players, jockey, tennis player, newspaper man or business man, haven’t they? You know some fellows who never were fighters, but who are all washed up at 35 or 40, don’t you?

“But they aren’t punch-drunk, you say. All right, Now let me tell you something: There is no need for a fighter to get punch-drunk, either. The fighter who winds up on his heels is the fighter who never learned his business in the first place and, in the second, weakened himself and undermined his health by dissipation. And I may be wrong, but I think that those characteristics aren’t exactly peculiar to fighters.”

 1938:  Navy researchers suggest boxing inexperience typically causes ‘punch drunk‘ disease, which they term as ‘dementia pugilistica’

Jan. 16, 1938, New York Times NY, p.67

It’s ‘Dementia Pugilistica’ And Not ‘Punch Drunk’

Special Correspondence, The New York Times

WASHINGTON–Uncle Sam’s navy doctors do not care for the term “punch drunk.” They admit it is colorful and “scarcely requires elucidation,” but say it tends to encumber nosological nomenclature.

The term “dementia pugilistica” has been coined instead for persons suffering delusions of pugilistic prowess. It would apply to any one who puts up his “dukes” at the sound of a trolley-car bell, or who habitually scowls, snorts, blows, grimaces, crouches or squares off like a boxer.

A recent government bulletin explains that the most typical examples of this disorder are usually found among the less expert boxers, particularly as concerns defensive ingenuity—boxers capable, nevertheless, of absorbing inordinate punishment.

1938:  reports of boxing ‘punch drunk’ condition are ‘grossly exaggerated,’ says UWisconsin neurologist, adding that ‘proper coaching, officiating and medical supervision’ will eliminate all chance of the problem at colleges

June 24, 1938, Baltimore Sun MD, p.17

Boxing Weight Limits Lifted

Colleges Raise Bantams to 120 Pounds and Feathers to 127

(By the Associated Press)

Annapolis, June 23–The weight limits of two classes of college boxing were increased today by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in order to relieve boxers from the strain of reducing their poundage.

The committee also decided to hold the annual national intercollegiate boxing meet at the University of Wisconsin on March 30, 31 and April 1.

After discussion had brought out that most colleges have had trouble in finding boxers light enough to compete in the present bantamweight and featherweight classes, the committee boosted the bantamweight limit from 115 to 120 pounds and the featherweight class limit from 125 to 127 pounds.

Other Classes Unchanged

The other classes authorized by the rules were unchanged. They are lightweight, 135 pounds; welterweight, 145 pounds; senior welterweight, 155 pounds; middleweight, 165 pounds; light-heavyweight 175 pounds,and unlimited weight, over 175 pounds.

The official group also decreed that boxers in the future cannot weight more than the top weight of the class in which they will compete. This eliminates the old rules which allowed boxers to weight four pounds more than the weight limit.

Another change was the adoption of a rule making it mandatory for boxers to weight in four hours before a meet, eliminating the optional clause which allowed weighing in during the four-hour period.

It was also agreed that by mutual consent between competing institutions, teams of more than eight men may be used by matching two or men in any of the weight classes. This will allow coaches by agreement to stage two bantamweight, heavyweight or any other class bouts they desire in an official meet.

Must Stick To Class

A section was added to the rules to prevent a boxer entering any tournament in a weight class in which he has not participated in at least 50 percent of the bouts during the dual meets of the season. This would prohibit a boxer who has fought in two weights during the season, but a majority in the heavier weight, from training down to enter a tournament in the lighter weight.

Dr. W.J. Blackwenn, professor of nervous and mental diseases and boxing representative at the University of Wisconsin, declared that reports of “punch-drunk” college fighters have been grossly exaggerated. He pointed out that the few cases reported have little foundation in fact, and that by proper training, coaching, medical supervision and officiating, the condition cannot occur in college boxing.

1938:  amateur boxing organization blames poorly constructed gloves for ‘punch drunk,’ scribe writes

June 1, 1938, Hartford Courant CT, p.11

Calling ‘Em Right

With Bert Keane, Sports Editor

Change Your Gloves

Beginning today the Amateur Athletic Union is imposing new regulations in the use of the boxing gloves by simon-pure fighters. Observations by officers of the union have shown that many types of boxing gloves now being used are poorly constructed, thus causing fighters to become punch drunk.

The union contends that it is the policy to teach the youth of American to fight scientifically and to defend themselves properly. The intention of pleasing the crowd is not the foremost aim.

Heretofore, although gloves were of the regulation weight of 8 or 10 ounces the padding was poorly distributed, much of it being around the wrists instead of covering the knuckles. Other gloves contained padding of a poor grade which soon separated causing injury to both fighters.

Under the new ruling all gloves must bear the AAU seal before they can be used in regulation amateur tourneys or exhibitions.

1939:  boxing only needs regulation and proper training, coaching, to limit a fighter’s exposure, says ex-champ

July 16, 1939, Los Angeles Times CA, p.13


By Johnny Kilbane

as told to Paul Zimmerman

A few weeks ago I sat at ringside in Los Angeles during a series of bouts which brought loud and frequent protests from the people who paid their good money to see a display of the manly art of boxing.

“Make ’em fight! Make ’em fight!” …

I am convinced boxers today are, potentially, just as willing, just as courageous as they were in the 20-round days.

The trouble lies, to my way of thinking, with the present-day system.

In many instances there is faulty control over the sport by commissions that make boxing a political football, allowing it, oftentimes, to become a racket.

Then there are the chiseling promoters. One of the most vicious harms today is the effort to put the game on a syndicate basis.

Many managers—as many as 90 percent—either don’t know their business or do but fail to protect their fighters. And then, the seconds; they often harm a fighter more than the opponent does.

What do I suggest?

The best plan I know of would be to put boxing under a national commissioner—a strong man who is all-powerful. such a man as baseball has in Judge Kenesaw Landis. Qualifications? Well, he would have to be a man of integrity, a good businessman and a man who knows boxing.

Where can we find such a man?

What’s the matter with Gene Tunney?

Then let this commissioner appoint supervisors in the various sections or States; men like Ritchie, your boxing inspector in Southern California, or Jim McLarnin, the former world’s welterweight champion.

A commissioner with fortitude could keep boxers, managers and promoters in line with the threat of a national suspension that means something. Today a man can be barred in California and fight in almost any other State in the Union.

Let’s start with the fighter. Most of our present-day boxers come up from the amateur ranks. And I’d like to say here and now that many of our so-called simon-pure fighters actually get more money than the professionals who fight preliminaries. I think this sham is bad for the youth to start with.

The majority of our present-day fighters are poorly trained. Defense is a lost art. There’s too much stress on punching. A young boy goes into the gymnasium, puts on a headgear, dons oversized gloves and starts swinging.

He doesn’t learn defense because he doesn’t get hurt with all that protection. As a result modern fighting has become installment mayhem. Raw clubbing has adulterated the most skillful of all sports.

Training has become a sham. For this reason we have few fighters who could go through 20 rounds of training, let alone a long fight.

Take what I consider my hardest fight. It was held in a barn outside of Cleveland back in 1909–winner take all. …

We have too many punch-drunk fighters reeling around our gyms and on our fight cards today because the commissions, the promoters and the managers—the men who should know–don’t tell a poor boxer to get out before he is washed up. …

Let me repeat that properly trained and properly matched boxers will give a good account of themselves if permitted to do do. …

I don’t want my readers to think this criticism of the boxing game means I have soured on the sport or my many friends in it.

Boxing was good to me. I was paid $2,300 when I won the title here but I received $100,000 when I defended the crown for the last time and lost to Eugene Criqui in New York in 1923. I knew it was time for me to quit and I did.

At 50 I’m in fine health; my features are unmarked and I still have my self-respect. That’s important.

My criticism of boxing has been solely for the good of the game I still love. I only hope you place the blame on the right shoulders when you go to a bad bout and feel the urge to shout:

“Make ’em fight!”

1947:  boxers get ‘punch drunk’ from poor training, gloves, and football is just as bad for any such condition, scribe writes

Oct. 23, 1947, Mattoon Journal Gazette IL, p.9

Fair or Foul

By Lawton Carver

International News Service Sports Editor

New York—One of the great innovations currently needed in football is a game called off on a technical knockout.

When a fighter is hopelessly beaten and appears about to be permanently bruised, the official or officials have the right to step in and stop it. In football, it seems, a man doesn’t begin to show his courage until his bones begin to stick out through his jersey. …

The educators who get up on a rostrum occasionally and pop off about the evils of football always overlook that they are the ones who permit these slaughters. …

It is unbelievably strange that in the prize ring where pug-uglies take their swipes at each other, there is official humaneness, while in football the little guy playing the big guy is expected to take it until he is carried off the field. …

The general public probably would be surprised to know that there is a considerable amount of post traumatic encephalitis among football players.

That triple jointed word when translated bluntly means punch-drunk.

The prize-fighter actually gets most of his punch-drunkenness while working out In training, big gloves are used and the attempt to avoid punches is negligible.

Yet, with these big gloves on, fighters can hit each other hard enough to jolt the brain, tiny little hemorrhages in the blood vessels are set up and the next thing you know a guy has the equivalent of a locomotor ataxia and a mouth full of marbles.

In football it works the same way—only different. The guy’s brains are scrambled—or those blood vessels are ruptured—from belts on the head in close and from being bounced around the ground and kicked occasionally.

Some of the veteran pro football players talk with much the same mumble that you hear among fighters who have been swatted too much. This is set up while they still are in college.

1947:  college football players are ‘punchy,’ not boxers, says letter-writer

Oct. 5, 1947, Chapel Hill Daily Tar Heel NC, p.2

Write Away

Consider the Sport Boxing

Fellow Students:

Boxing has been dropped from the winter schedule of sport activities. You probably didn’t know about this until now. ..

I was told that boxing was dropped by the Athletic Council because of lack of interest, too many nose injuries, and the large number of undesirable characters that have boxed for the University of North Carolina. These reasons were given to me by a member of the Athletic Council and I feel that the latter reasoning is an insult to all former and present members of the University’s boxing team. …

As for nose injuries or any kind of injuries, I don’t believe that boxing in college even on a percentage basis, is anywhere close to football in that category. How many boxers in college do you know that have received permanent injuries or have become punchy due to boxing with ten ounce gloves?

Sincerely yours,

Dick Young

1953:  ‘Most Boxing Injuries Can Be Prevented,’ headline states over doctor’s newspaper column

July 9, 1953, Winona Republican-Herald MN, p.6

Most Boxing Injuries Can Be Prevented

By H.N. Bundesen, M.D.

Until public clamor over ring fatalities and brutalities caused boxing authorities to take action, the physician had little part to play in professional and amateur boxing. He might, before the bout, stethescope the prize fighters and check their blood pressure and body temperature. He then took his usual seat until it was time to repair the damaged men.

Today in progressive states, medial measures are now being undertaken to protect the fighters. Physicians thoroughly screen the men to make sure that their hearts are in good condition. They examine for the possibility of epilepsy or the tendency to have convulsions.

Brain Waves Measured

In some states, any fighter that is knocked unconscious is required to have an electroencephalogram, which is taken by an instrument that measures the brain waves and determines whether any brain damage has been brought about.

Much damage can be prevented by using eight and ten-ounce gloves rather than the usual six-ounce glove. The old glove used to have loose padding so that it could be shifted away from the knuckles. The more preventive type of glove is made of latex-bound pad.

The resin used to coat the floors of the ring to provide adequate friction is now being replaced by calcium carbonate. This will protect the fighter’s eyes, since the resin is very damaging to the eyes.

Safer Mouth Pieces

New plastic mouth pieces have been perfected so that the shock of jaw blows can be lessened. These are much safer and more effective than the rubber mouth pieces now being used.

The thin canvas mats that were once used are now being replaced by a synthetic soft substance, known as ensolite, which cushions the falls.

Physicians have learned that fighting might give rise to specific diseases. Boxing and repeated blows to the head may result in permanent damage to the brain and nervous system.

Medical and laboratory skills have combined in the fight to protect the fighter from his occupational hazards.

1955:  ‘boxing is relatively safe, with no definite evidence of brain damage in EEG study,’ say doctors

June 6, 1955, Escanaba Daily Press MI, p.12

New York Physician Calls Other Sports Tougher Than Boxing

By Jack Hand

NEW YORK (AP) A New York physician today called boxing “relatively safe” and rated football and pro ice hockey as tougher contact sports.

Dr. Mal Stevens, chairman of the medical advisory board of the New York State Athletic Commission, defended boxing against charges of “barbarism” voiced by a British physician in a speech to the American Medical Assn. at Atlantic City, N.J.

“With proper supervision, equipment, coaching, training and officiating, boxing has become relatively safe,” said Dr. Stevens, former football coach at Yale and New York University.

Danger In All

“There is an element of danger in all contact sports,” he said. “I believe there is more chance of permanent injury in football or pro hockey where the contestants rush at each other from a distance and momentum becomes a factor.

The British physician, Dr. James Hamilton Doggart of Moorsfield Eye Hospital, London, stressed the idea that a boxer can get damaging “cauliflower eyes” (hemorrhages in blood vessels of the eye nourishing the retina and lens).

Denies Brain Damage

“Retinal detachment is not peculiar to boxing,” said Dr. Stevens. “While I was a Yale we had three cases of detached retina. One came from football, another was the result of a boy being hit by a squash racquet and third from an exploding seltzer bottle.”

“The British physician said pre-fight physical exams did little more than “separate the cripples and morons.” He also said “one expert has said that probably no head blow is taken with impunity, and each knockout caused definite and irreparable damage.

“We have taken tests of 2,047 license boxers with the electro-encephalogram,” said Dr. Stevens, “and we’re still looking for definite evidence of any brain damage.”

1959:  ‘the so-called punch-drunk syndrome has been successfully challenged by an overwhelming weight of scientific evidence,’ doctor writes in JAMA

May 27, 1959, Salt Lake Tribune UT, p.13

Sports Mirror by

John Mooney

Tribune Sports Editor

Question Box

“Which of the three major American sports–boxing, baseball or football–causes the most deaths? And what about the great number of boxers who wind up ‘punch drunk.’ Bettey B., Provo.”

ANSWER—Dr. Ira McCowan, in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., asserts, “Many sports authorities, and even some physicians, mistakenly believe the incidence of fatalities and serious injuries is greater in boxing than in any of the other body contact sports.

“The Gonzales report of fatalities in competitive sports, based on a study from 1918 to 1950, found there were more deaths in baseball and football then in boxing in that period. There were 43 deaths in baseball, 22 in football and 21 in boxing.”

Dr. McCowan concludes, “The so-called punch-drunk syndrome has been successfully challenged by an overwhelming weight of scientific evidence. The clinical picture and pathological findings associated with this syndrome are not peculiar to boxing alone, but have been found in the average populace as frequently, if not more frequently, than in boxers.”

Dr. Tony Curreri, of the University of Wisconsin, who studied electric-encephalograms on thousands of boxers, says there are as many “punchy” folks going through life as there are ex-boxers who are hearing bells.

1960:  ‘boxing knockouts don’t leave brain damage,’ doctors argue:

June 22, 1960, New York Times NY, p.38

Neurosurgeons Study Knockout Physiology

No Lasting Changes in Brain Produced

But Specialists Do Not Agree on the ‘Punch Drunk’

By Robert K. Plumb

Knockout in the boxing ring occurs when the brain’s organizing network is suddenly overwhelmed by nervous signals, two nerve specialists reported here yesterday.

The ring knockout does not produce lasting changes in the brain, the two asserted at a medical conference on injuries and deaths in professional boxing that was sponsored by the New York State Athletic Commission.

However, specialists at the meeting disagreed on the cause of the phenomenon known as “punch drunk.” One held that a boxer could become punch drunk as a result of repeated knockouts; the other said that knockouts had nothing to do with the condition.

The physiology of the knockout was discussed in studies conducted by Dr. Jefferson Browder, neurosurgeon of the Long Island College Hospital, and Dr. Harry A. Kaplan, Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center.

Long Study Made

Dr. Kaplan reported that he and Dr. Browder had long studied knockouts at ringside with a view to furthering medical understanding of unconsciousness common in many medical emergencies. They soon decided that boxing, unless a fighter fell and hit head on the mat, produced only a temporary state of affairs in the brain. They maintained that it was different from being hit by an automobile. …

Others at the conference maintained that professional boxing did not have so many injuries or fatalities as other sports.

The chief medical examiner of New York City, Dr. Milton Helpern, reported on autopsy findings of boxers who died in this city after bouts. …

Dr. Helpern said that he agreed with Dr. Kaplan that the usual ring knockout was a temporary thing and that residual injury to the brain usually could not be established as resulting from blows to the head.

Dr. Abraham M. Rabiner, Emeritus Professor of Neurology at the State University of New York College of Medicine, discussed the punch drunk. He said he did not know what caused the condition. However, Dr. Rabiner speculated that repeated knockouts could injure the brain as a series of small strokes could injure it. …

Dr. Marvin A. [Mal] Stevens, chairman of the medical advisory board of the New York State Athletic Commission, and Dr. Ira A. McCown, the commission’s medical director, were chairmen for scientific sessions that began Monday and ended yesterday at the New York University-Bellevue Medical Center.

Participants at the symposium went to the weighing-in ceremony before the [Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson] fight Monday night and most attended the bout. At the conference were ring physicians and other medical specialists, former boxers and boxing officials.

1961:  AMA Sports Medical members ‘have made a stand in support of intercollegiate boxing,’ scribe writes

Jan. 8, 1961, Idaho State Journal ID, p.11

On The Sidelines

By Tom Morrison

Journal Sports Editor

Can intercollegiate boxing make a comeback and enjoy the prestige it acquired at the height of its success?

We think it can and will do so.

Our opinion is based upon the recent developments during the American Medical Association’s Conference on the Medical Aspects of Sports held in Washington, D.C. The doctors not only sanctioned collegiate boxing but disagreed with the University of Wisconsin’s decision to retire from ring competition.

From a feeble beginning in 1932 and 1936, when bouts were held to qualify college boxers for the Olympic tryouts, the sport progressed like a champion to the National Collegiate Boxing Championships sponsored by the NCAA in 1957, when it hit its peak and Idaho State College won the national crown by taking seven out of ten weight classes and compiled a record number of points.

Since then the intercollegiate sport has taken several verbal blows on the chin from fans, coaches, school officials, writers, experts and even the participants.

Intercollegiate boxing received the hardest blow in its history last April 9 when wiry, 22-year-old Charles Mohr, probably one of the finest collegiate boxing in the nation for the University of Wisconsin and the 165-pound titleholder in ’59, stepped into the ring at Madison to defend his crown against San Jose State’s Stu Bartell and minutes later was in a deep coma from an intracranial hemorrhage following a moderate blow to the head which caused his death eight days later.

The punch rocked the collegiate boxing world. …

From April until the AMA in December, intercollegiate boxing reeled on the ropes from the unfounded verbal beating it was taking from opponents of the sport. …

Finally, the men who know have made a stand supporting intercollegiate boxing… the nation’s doctors and the American Medical Association. …

The doctors at the AMA conference in the nation’s capitol agreed that organized sports are well worth the risk of injury. They disagreed with the University of Wisconsin, which after Mohr’s death retired from intercollegiate boxing.

Time magazine, reporting on the conference in the Dec. 12 issue, said, “Bad injuries in sports happen often enough to keep doctors seriously worried.”

The weekly publication stated the Air Force in 1958 announced that 3,222 of its men had been disabled or killed in sports activities during a single year.

The breakdown of the Air Force injuries and fatalities, in parenthesis, is as follows: Softball 703, football 520, basketball 504, volleyball 137, skeet shooting 76 (1), water sports 359 (75), winter sports 151, baseball 147, hunting 70 (2), hiking 16, and others 536.

Boxing wasn’t listed in the report but was included in the category “others.”

At the conference, Harvard University’s Dr. Thomas B. Quigley said, “Whenever young men gather regularly on green autumn fields, on winter ice, or polished wooden floors to dispute the possession and position of various leather and rubber objects, according to certain rules, sooner or later somebody gets hurt.”

All must agree to this logic, but the big question before the doctors was: Are organized sports worth the risk?

The doctors answered with a QUALIFIED YES.

Furthermore, the doctors stated, boxing was good for youth. The medics agreed with Harvard’s Quigley that “young men must blow off steam and the playing field is much to be preferred to the tavern.”

Dr. Harry A. Kaplan of New York of New York blasted the popular theory that “punch-drunkenness” is brought on by repeated blows to the head in the ring.

He reported that a ten-year study of 3,000 electroencephalograms (recording of the brain’s electric current) taken on boxers showed no relationship between boxing and degenerative brain disease. Dr. Kaplan and said that the “punch drunk” ex-pugilist would probably have suffered the same fate had he never boxed at all.

Protection given intercollegiate boxers with head guards, padded gloves, mouthpieces, proper supervised training and careful scrutiny of the fighters in actual competition by competent officials and ringside doctors leaves very little chance of injury.

Matt Chaney is a researcher, writer, and consultant on public issues in sport, specializing in American football for three decades. Chaney, MA in media studies, is a former college football player and coach whose books include Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, self-published in 2009Chaney’s study for graduate thesis, co-published with the University of Central Missouri in 2001, analyzed print sport-media coverage of anabolic substances in football from 1983-1999. Email him at or visit the website for more information.