Perhaps it was a slip-up on the behalf of the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety Jeff Miller or maybe he was just feeling pretty relaxed at the moment due to the fact this was a roundtable discussion convened by a government body. One thing is for sure – an NFL official has for the first time in history acknowledged that there is a correlation between playing football and brain disease, more precisely chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
We really cannot see a reason why the League would all of a sudden admit to something they so staunchly negated for years, if not decades, most recently during Super Bowl 50 Week and we strongly suspect that Miller made a faux pas. That being said, it was refreshing to hear someone so high up the NFL ladder say, unequivocally that the answer to the question as to whether there is a link between football and CTE is “certainly yes”.
The question was posed by Rep. Jan Schakowsky during a discussion convened by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce. Miller added that the assessment he made was based on the research conducted by a neuropathologist from Boston University Dr. Ann McKee who discovered signs of CTE in the brains of 90 of the 94 deceased NFL players she has examined. Moreover, she discovered CTE in brains of 45 out of 55 college players and even in 6 out of 26 high school players. Perhaps the reason why the League finally had to say yes is that the evidence has become too much to ignore.
CTE is a chronic condition that develops in people who have suffered repeated injury during their lives, mostly athletes in spots such as boxing and football, as well as stunt actors and people in similar occupations where head trauma is quite common. The condition can be very debilitating and it is suspected that the majority of heavily publicized ex-NFL suicides had to do with CTE. The biggest problem is that the medical science still has no way of diagnosing the condition in living people except by observing symptoms.
The next big question that has to be answered is what can be done. What is the League prepared to do? What are the colleges prepared to do? Most importantly of all, what will the players do? NFL has already seen a number of players retire early because of the indications football may cause CTE, but now that the League itself has acknowledged this, maybe we will see more players do the same? Only time will tell.
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