The National Football League Foundation funds painful and lethal experiments on dogs and other animals. The research is meant to mimic injuries that football players suffer but it doesn’t succeed. It hasn’t helped a single traumatic brain injury patient and probably never will.
PETA issued a press release revealing the research. The release includes an upsetting GIF of a machine robotically crushing a live rat’s head.
A website for sports fans, Sports Grid, observes that many football players won’t be happy to learn about the NFL’s research, starting with those who have collaborated with PETA to prevent cruelty to animals. In a slideshow, the site features examples like Sedrick Ellis, who appears in a PETA ad advising people who must evacuate in natural disasters to take their dogs with them; Lance Briggs and Glenn Dorsey, who promote bringing dogs inside in cold weather; and Aaron Curry, who opposes chaining dogs outside whatever the weather. Other animal-loving footballers include Tony Gonzalez, who posed naked with his wife for an anti-fur ad, and Terrell Suggs and Willis McGahee, who also show off skin for PETA anti-fur campaigns.
Sports Grid itself damns the research as “pointless and cruel.”
Another sports website, Bleacher Report (B/R), is less sympathetic, whining that the NFL was “forced” to respond to PETA’s revelation. Still, even B/R conceded that the rat GIF is disturbing. B/R was more than happy with the NFL’s statement that the experiments it funds comply with the minimal animal welfare standards applied by the much-criticized institutional animal care and use committees (IACUC). Those standards are all but useless.
IACUCS are ineffective at preventing animal suffering in laboratories, and federal laws governing experiments on live non-human beings are scandalously toothless, as NEAVS (New England Anti-Vivisection Society) points out. If an organization insists on supporting experimenting on animals, it has to do a little more than nothing to ensure humane treatment. Even better, it shouldn’t experiment on animals at all.
Studies have shown that the animal research the NFL funds doesn’t accurately “replicate the complex injuries” football players experience, according to PETA’s press release. It isn’t surprising that the resulting data and the treatments devised based on the animal experiments have “repeatedly failed to help human patients.” In fact, PETA told B/R, the experiments that torture and kill animals have “never yielded an effective treatment or preventive measure. They do not work and will not help players.”
Football players would be better served if the NFL spent its money on investigations with a chance of applying to them. Unfortunately, thousands of players with traumatic brain injuries settled the case they brought against the NFL for up to $10 million to fund the pointless animal tests, in addition to payments directly to players.
The injured players had a real grievance. Research shows that the head injuries common in the game can cause permanent brain damage, including dementia and Lou Gehrig’s disease. They can also cause altered behavior and depression, which led to the suicides of at least three injured players since 2011.
The military funds more promising research into treating brain injuries, which it hopes will help soldiers like those injured by improvised explosive devices. One program trains concussion patients to think their way beyond the cognitive deficits their injuries caused.
Another breakthrough is the discovery that people who suffered concussions have a higher level of tau protein in their brains. Medical experts discovered this effect by scanning the brains of former NFL players. Neither this discovery nor the brain training intervention could have come from beating up dogs.
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