Front & Center: Outside the Lines and FRONTLINE partner to investigate NFL concussions

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This afternoon’s Outside the Lines (ESPN, 3 p.m. ET) hosted by Bob Ley represents the start of a collaboration between two of journalism’s most recognizable and respected brands.

In a piece reported by brothers, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, OTL and PBS’s FRONTLINE launch a joint project to investigate the ongoing story of concussions in the National Football League. (ESPN.com has posted accompanying stories from the duo here and from ESPN’s Senior Writer and Legal Analyst Lester Munson here.)

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.”

Today’s OTL segment focuses on late Hall of Famer, Mike Webster, the former Pittsburgh Steelers center who was the first NFL player officially diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy — or “football brain disease.”

For years, the NFL repeatedly denied any link between head injuries in football and brain damage in players. But while its medical experts issued the denials, the NFL disability and pension board acknowledged that at least three players, including Webster, had cognitive impairment as a result of head injuries suffered in football and awarded the players benefits based on its findings.

The NFL disability board’s rulings and the league’s contradictory public stance could become important evidence in the numerous lawsuits filed against the league by more than 4,000 players.

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.”

In the podcast above, the brother reporting team discuss today’s OTL piece, their on-going research for a book they are working on and what it’s like to work so closely with a sibling.

This podcast was edited.

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