Last year, the NFL announced a $100 million commitment to concussion research. But in the time since that pledge was announced, the NFL has only funded a study focused on jockeys.
The study aims to find out why high concussion rates in horse racing don't translate into "deteriorating brain function in later life," a question that many scientists believe has little to do with football. The study is led by an Australian researcher who once described American coverage of CTE as "carry-on and hoo-hah" and a British doctor whose concussion presentations sometimes have included flippant jokes and video of tumbling jockeys set to slapstick music.
The NFL has taken the science in-house and under its control.
"I would view it just as if any giant corporation was doing internal research," said Stefan Duma, a concussion researcher who is the interim director for Virginia Tech's Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science. "This is internal research that the NFL controls."
Several concussion experts reached by Outside the Lines doubted that equestrian sports were an appropriate vehicle to draw conclusions about long-term mental illness in football players.
The NFL has announced just two projects from its $100 million "Play Smart, Play Safe" campaign, totaling $210,000.
"It's going to take 500 years to distribute this money" at this rate, said one concussion researcher.
The NFL believes better helmets will improve player safety, though they had a similar initiative in 1994.
"The majority of that $100 million -- $60 million -- is going to technology, and 'technology' is a nice word to say 'better helmet,'" said Dr. Robert Cantu. "They're hoping they can come up with a better helmet that will largely make the problem go away. Helmets can obviously make it better, but no, realistically, it's the violent shaking of the brain, the rapid movement of the head. And the masses involved of individuals colliding with their heads and other body parts is just too great. They could probably get it better, but I don't think the helmet will ever solve the issue."