Skip to main content

NFL official first to acknowledge link between football and CTE

An NFL official acknowledged for the first time Monday that playing football is linked to degenerative brain diseases like CTE.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

An NFL official acknowledged for the first time Monday that playing football is linked to brain disease.

Jeff Miller, the NFL's senior vice president for health and safety, testified before the House of Representatives and was asked by Illinois congresswoman Jan Schakowsky whether he thinks “there is a link between football and degenerative brain disorders like CTE.”

“The answer to that question is certainly yes,” Miller responded, adding that there are still questions about how prevalent the disease is and whether genetic factors play a part.

NFL officials have previously declined to say whether football is to blame for former players’ brain diseases. 

• Brandi Chastain to donate brain to Boston U. for CTE research

The NFL released a statement through spokesman Brian McCarthy addressing Miller’s comments.

“He was discussing Dr. McKee's findings and made the additional point that a lot more questions need to be answered,” McCarthy said, reerencing Boston University neuropathologist Ann McKee. “He said that the experts should speak to the state of the science.”

In a two-page letter to the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, Steven Molo, who is representing some of the players in the case, called the NFL’s position against acknowledging CTE in the lawsuit “inexcusable.”

Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Timesreports that two lawyers involved in the case, which is currently under appeal, do not believe Miller’s statement will affect the outcome. 

McKee has examined the brains of 94 former NFL players and found that 90 of them had CTE. Last month, Boston University researcher Robert Stern criticized the NFL for not funding research to develop a test that would diagnose living patients with CTE. Currently, the disease can only be diagnosed with certainty after death.

Many former NFL players report suffering from memory loss and depression, likely caused by CTE, a brain disease shown to be linked to football-related head trauma. Several former NFL players, including Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, committed suicide and were later found to have CTE in their brains. 

- Dan Gartland