NFL Health Official Acknowledges Link Between CTE, Football-Related Head Trauma
NFL Senior VP/Health & Safety Policy Jeff Miller yesterday acknowledged "there is a link between football-related head trauma" and CTE, the "first time a senior league official has conceded football's connection to the devastating brain disease," according to Steve Fainaru of ESPN.com. The admission "came during a roundtable discussion on concussions convened by the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce." Miller said that he based his assessment on the work of Boston Univ. neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee, who has "diagnosed CTE in the brains of 176 people, including those of 90 of 94 former NFL players." Miller added that "little is known about the prevalence of the disease or the risk of incurring it." Fainaru reported hours after Miller's comments yesterday, a lawyer representing seven former NFLers objecting to the proposed settlement of the concussion lawsuit against the NFL "sent a letter to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals." The letter argued that Miller's acknowledgement of a link and of McKee's work "reflects a 'stark turn' from the league's position, underscoring the objectors' argument that CTE was not adequately addressed in the settlement." Miller's admission comes after Dr. Mitch Berger, a San Francisco neurosurgeon who is a member of the NFL's Head, Neck & Spine Committee, during Super Bowl week "asserted that there is still no established link between football and CTE" (ESPN.com, 3/14). Berger repeatedly said that while the types of degenerative changes to the brain associated with CTE "have been found in late football players, such signs have also been found 'in all spectrums of life.'" Miller when asked about those comments said he was "not going to speak for Dr. Berger" (AP, 3/15).
WATERSHED MOMENT: In L.A., Farmer & Fenno write Miller's comments "could be a watershed moment in the debate about the long-term effects of head injuries" in the NFL. Concussion Legacy Foundation Exec Dir Chris Nowinski said that Miller's acknowledgment "was a milestone moment." Nowinski: "The NFL spent years trying to convince the public that a link hasn't been established. We now need to tell them, 'The NFL believes there's a link. And if the NFL believes there's a link, you should believe there's a link, because they're the last people that want to believe there's a link'" (L.A. TIMES, 3/15). NBC's Willie Geist called it a "landmark admission from America's biggest league." NBC's Savannah Guthrie asked, "Where does the league go from here and what does it mean for the future of America's most popular sport?" Geist said this is a question a lot of people "have been asking over the last couple of years," with many parents wondering if their children should play the game. Geist: "Now that you have the NFL coming out and doing something it has never done before in explicitly taking about that link, that becomes an even more difficult question to answer" ("Today," NBC, 3/15).
STUNNING ADMISSION: In N.Y., Ken Belson writes Miller's comments were "perhaps the clearest admission that football can cause degenerative brain disease" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/15). In DC, Des Bieler writes Miller's acknowledgement of a link between CTE and head injuries was a "stunning admission" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/15). The NFL has "long avoided taking a position on the issue" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/15). However, YAHOO SPORTS' Eric Edholm noted it will be "difficult to determine" if the admission "has any real effect" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/14). Radio host Dan Patrick noted the admission came "out of nowhere," but he wondered what the "bigger picture here is to get somebody on record saying this." Patrick: "Did he say it on purpose? Did he know this question was coming his way?” Patrick was not “surprised by the answer,” but he was surprised Miller “gave an answer like that” (“The Dan Patrick Show,” 3/15).
INTERNAL MATTER: The CP's Gemma Karstens-Smith reported a British Columbia judge "has tossed out a lawsuit" by former CFLer Arland Bruce, who "claims negligence, alleging players haven’t been protected from concussions." Justice Christopher Hinkson wrote in his ruling that the issues raised in Bruce’s lawsuit are part of the CBA between the league and the CFLPA. Hinkson "dismissed the case, saying those issues must be resolved through the grievance and arbitration process, not the courts" (CP, 3/14).