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Hits to the head, and hits to taxpayers

Of note: This week we highlight one of our own stories, which examines  the mounting evidence of the danger of brain injuries in contact sports, including football, and Wisconsin’s central role in this national controversy. Luke Schaetzel, reporting for the Center, found many University of Wisconsin-Madison football players push aside fears about concussions in order to play. In related news, the Washington Post reports that the NFL saw an increase this season in reported concussions; the wife of former NFL player Rob Kelly writes poignantly in The New York Times about her husband’s mental and physical deterioration; and former Green Bay Packer Sam Shields says he is ready to get back in the game, despite suffering five concussions. Our final story has nothing to do with head injuries but it is a bit of a head scratcher. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jason Stein found the $2.85 billion state subsidy to Foxconn amounts to $200,000 per job — eight times higher than other similar job-creation deals — and nearly four times higher than the minimum average salary of $53,000 that Foxconn promises to pay.

WisconsinWeekly is produced by Andy and Dee J. Hall, a couple who founded the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Andy is the executive director and Dee is the managing editor.

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University of Wisconsin football players downplay warnings while proof of brain injury — even from small hits — piles up

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism — Jan. 28, 2018

Interviews with more than a dozen current and former Badger football players reveal that many downplay the threat of brain injury, even though some said they have had their “bell rung” many times. Increasingly, however, a growing number of researchers, coaches, players and their families are worried — not just about brain injury in football but in other contact sports as well.

Concussions suffered by NFL players up this season; injury rate higher for Thursday games

The Washington Post — Jan. 26, 2018

Key developments in the NFL’s preliminary injury data show NFL players suffered 281 diagnosed concussions, nearly a 16 percent increase, in the 2017 preseason and regular season. It is the highest number of concussions in a season since at least 2012. The rate of injury during Thursday night games exceed the rate of other games, data that is closely scrutinized because some players have complained the games are unsafe due to short rest and should not be played.  

I’m the Wife of a Former N.F.L. Player. Football Destroyed His Mind.

The New York Times — Feb. 2, 2018

In a column for The New York Times, Emily Kelly, wife of former NFL player Rob Kelly, details how her husband went from being a “devoted and loving father and husband” to “someone who felt like a ghost” in their home. In 2013, the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL player retirement plan and supplemental disability plan awarded Kelly, who played tackle football for two decades, total and permanent disability benefits.

Q&A: Former Packers cornerback Sam Shields wants to play again

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — Feb. 2, 2018

Former Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields wants to return to the NFL, despite suffering his fifth documented concussion in the season opener in 2016. Shields said, “You’re going to see the (number) 37 you remembered.”

Foxconn package cost Wisconsin eight times as much per job as similar 2017 state jobs deals

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — Feb. 5, 2018

Gov. Scott Walker has committed Wisconsin to paying more than eight times as much per Foxconn job as the state will provide under similar job creation deals. The incentive package, which sits at more than $200,000 in state taxpayer money per job, is “easily the state’s most expensive deal of 2017.” Experts say Wisconsin is paying more per job than other projects nationally and even more than some states were willing to pay per job for Amazon’s second headquarters.

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.