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NFL exec: Research shows a link between football and CTE

Jeff Miller

NFL Senior Vice President of Health and Safety Policy Jeff Miller speaks during an NFL health and safety news conference Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


At a press conference during the week before the Super Bowl, Dr. Mitch Berger, a member of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee, said that there was not a link between football and CTE.

Jeff Miller, the league’s senior vice president for health and safety, gave a different answer at a discussion on concussions held by the House Committee on Energy & Commerce in Washington on Monday. Miller and Dr. Anne McKee, a professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University, were both asked about a link between football and the degenerative disorder.

McKee, who has studied the brains of football players, said her research “unequivocally” supported a link. Miller didn’t disagree.

“Certainly Dr. McKee’s research shows that a number of retired NFL players were diagnosed with CTE, so the answer to that question is certainly yes,” Miller said in response to Rep. Janice Schakowsky.

Miller added that there were a “number of questions” that came with that. Schakowsky then asked for an “unequivocal answer” of his own.

“Y0u asked the question whether I thought there was a link, and certainly based on Dr. McKee’s research there’s a link, because she’s found CTE in a number of retired football players,” Miller said. “I think the broader point, and the one that your question gets to, is what that necessarily means and where do we go from here with that information.”

Miller’s comments are the first from an NFL employee drawing a clear line from playing football to CTE, which is significant in light of the position that Berger took just a month ago. The NFL focused on letting science take the lead in a statement later on Monday.

"[Miller] was discussing Dr McKee’s findings and made the additional point that a lot more questions need to be answered,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said, via the Washington Post. “He said that the experts should speak to the state of the science. We want the facts, so we can develop better solutions. And that’s why we’re deeply committed to advancing medical research on head trauma, including CTE, to let the science go where the science goes. We know the answers will come as this field of study continues to advance.”

There’s little to no credibility in arguing with scientific findings about CTE in the brains of football players nor is there any credibility in arguing that playing football absolutely gives you CTE. Given those truths, the continued focus in research should be in finding out how to lessen the risk of developing CTE or other neurological disorders before and after players advance to the NFL level.