NFL Acknowledges Link Between Football and Brain Disease

There has been a lot of recent publicity regarding the NFL, concussions, brain disease, and player safety. This longstanding attention reached a surprising point on Monday, March 14, 2016 when the NFL’s top health and safety officer acknowledged a link between football-related head trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

This acknowledgment arose during a concussion discussion assembled by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. During this discussion, Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president, was asked if there was a link between football and neurogenerative diseases, his response — “certainly yes.”

Miller based this association on the findings of Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuropathologist, who diagnosed 90 out of 94 former NFL players with CTE. In addition to NFL players, McKee found CTE in many college and high school football players.

When asked about a connection between playing football and CTE, Miller and Dr. Mckee both affirmed the existence of such connection.

This acknowledgement has been long awaited. In 2009, the NFL announced that it would impose rules requiring players who exhibit signs of concussions to be removed from a game or practice and to be barred from returning the same day. This rule was established around the same that an NFL spokesman told the New York Times that “it is quite obvious from medical research that’s been done that concussions can lead to long-term problems.” Although past comments have been made, this is the first time an NFL official has acknowledged football’s connection to CTE.

This release comes about a month after the NFL’s biggest game day — the Super Bowl. During Super Bowl week, a neurosurgeon leading the NFL’s subcommittee on brain injury asserted that there is no established link between football and CTE.

The NFL’s acknowledgement of a connection between football and CTE is a big deal after recent denials, however, questions as to how common CTE is and how to diagnose it in living people still remain.

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