FRONTLINE & ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” Team Up to Examine NFL Concussions

PBS’s FRONTLINE and ESPN’s Outside the Lines are launching a joint project to investigate the ongoing story of concussions in the National Football League.

Based on reporting by ESPN reporters Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada, the year-long effort will examine the latest research on brain injuries and football, the impact on players, and the NFL’s effort to deal with a crisis that threatens the long-term health and popularity of the sport.

“ESPN is a terrific partner for this investigation,” said FRONTLINE Deputy Executive Producer Raney Aronson. “They bring unmatched knowledge and experience examining the defining questions in American sports.”

The collaboration kicks off Friday, November 16 with a segment on ESPN’s Outside the Lines (3 p.m. ET, check local listings) focusing on late Hall of Famer, Mike Webster. The former Pittsburgh Steelers center was the first NFL player officially diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy – or “football brain disease.”

Today nearly 4,000 former players are suing the NFL over the link between football and long-term brain damage. A joint investigation between Outside the Lines and FRONTLINE reveals that years before the NFL publicly acknowledged a connection between football and long-term mental disease, the NFL’s disability board was quietly paying more than a million dollars in benefits to several players with brain-related illnesses.

The collaboration includes online companion stories published on November 16 at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN.com and PBS.org/FRONTLINE. A podcast with the brother reporting team can be found at http://www.espnfrontrow.com.

Concussion Watch, an extensive website tracking each concussion officially identified by the NFL this season will launch later this month on PBS.org/FRONTLINE. ESPN and FRONTLINE will also invite fans online to help report questionable hits and possible concussions.

This year-long project will culminate in a full-length FRONTLINE documentary produced and directed by Tom Jennings to launch the fall season of FRONTLINE in 2013. In addition in fall 2013, Crown Archetype, a division of Random House Inc., is scheduled to publish a book on the topic written by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada.

“FRONTLINE has been distinguished by high-quality investigative reporting for many years,” said Vince Doria, ESPN’s senior vice president and director of news. “For ESPN and Outside The Lines to partner with the unit on such an important story, and to bring two of our strongest enterprise reporters to the effort, is a rare opportunity, and we believe it will result in some ground-breaking work.”

FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation and by the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund. FRONTLINE is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers by the Media Access Group at WGBH. FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of the WGBH Educational Foundation.

Outside the Lines is ESPN’s Emmy Award-winning investigative sports-news program, examining the off-the-field developments that impact what happens on the field since May 1990. The series features the enterprise reporting that has become the signature of the Outside the Lines franchise, which exemplifies ESPN’s commitment to investigative journalism, and provides an outlet for ESPN’s news-gathering entities. Host Bob Ley is the face of Outside the Lines, which benefits from ESPN’s expansive news and information enterprise, including SportsCenter, ESPN.com, ESPNEWS, ESPN Radio and ESPN The Magazine.

Media Contacts:
Diane Hebert-Farrell
Diane Hebert-Farrell@wgbh.org
617-300-5366

David Scott
david.r.scott@espn.com
860-766-2360

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