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NFL “rejects any suggestion of improper influence” over NIH study

Cleveland Browns v New York Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 13: The NFL shield is painted in gold and black after a game between the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on September 13, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The new color scheme is to commemorate this years’ Super Bowl witch will be the 50th edition. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

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The NFL has remained silent in the hours since news emerged of a Congressional report that the league unduly influenced the selection of a researcher to lead a National Institutes of Health study regarding head trauma. While the NFL still has not yet provided specifics, the league has issued a categorical rejection of the conclusion.

“We are reviewing the report but categorically reject any suggestion of improper influence,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email.

Given the league’s position, and based on the precedent created by the league’s zealous opposition to a New York Times report regarding flawed concussion research and (tenuous) links between Big Shield and Big Tobacco, it’s safe to assume that, eventually, a lengthy and detailed response will be provided by the NFL. Whether that persuades the media or the public or otherwise undoes the preliminary damage from the 91-page report remains to be seen.

For now, the report has created an impression that the league wanted to steer a study regarding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in living patients away from someone whom the league regarded as being adverse to its interests. Regardless of whether the league did or didn’t exert undue influence, it’s not a surprise that the league would have concern about a test for detecting CTE in players who have not yet died. If/when a test is developed and if/when it results in the widespread detection of CTE in NFL, college, and/or high school players, the NFL could experience something far more dangerous to the future of the league than a class-action lawsuit.