The National Football League acknowledged a link between football and brain disease for the first time on March 15. Jeff Miller, NFL senior vice president for health and safety, admitted the link at a discussion on concussions at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce.
When Democratic State Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois asked if there was a proven link between neurodegenerative diseases and football, Miller responded, “The answer to that question is certainly yes,” reports ESPN.
Miller said that the link was firmly proven by Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at Boston University. McKee diagnosed 90 of 94 former NFL players examined with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a devastating brain disease.
“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 continued.
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Prior to Miller’s statement, Rep. Schakowsky had condemned the NFL’s response to brain injuries in its former athletes.
“The NFL is peddling a false sense of security. Football is a high-risk sport because of the routine hits, not just diagnosable concussions. What the American public need[s] now is honesty about the health risks and clearly more research,” said Schakowsky at the discussion.
Despite the clear admission of the link between brain disease and football by Miller, Steve Fainaru, an ESPN reporter, alleges that the NFL misled people for years about the dangers of its sport, reports NPR.
“[The NFL] has for years basically punted on this question. They’ve never really come close to acknowledging that football can cause brain damage. And that question has been at the center of a class-action lawsuit against the league, a lot of really bad publicity that the league has endured for years. So, I think for people who follow this, it was really quite surprising,” said Fainaru.
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Dr. McKee noted that in her opinion, the link between football and brain disease is unambiguous.
“In fact, I think we are going to be surprised at how common [brain damage] is,” said McKee.