The biggest story of the NFL off-season may not be a major trade acquisition or an iconic player’s retirement, but rather the league’s apparent ‘come to Jesus’ moment on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and the limitations of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s leadership.
As recently as three days before the Super Bowl, the NFL was formally refusing to acknowledge a link between CTE, an aggressive neurological disorder that has been discovered in several dozen deceased former players, and head injuries on the field of play. But on Monday, Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president for health and safety policy, became the first league official to confirm a connection between CTE and football during a House Government and Commerce Committee round-table discussion.
“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 reference to research by Dr. Ann McKee of Boston University. But that moment of clarity appears to have come too soon for the league. On Tuesday, the NFL began to back off Miller’s remarks.
“He 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 in a statement regarding Miller’s comments. “He said that the experts should speak to the state of the science.”
“We want the facts, so we can develop better solutions,” he added. “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.”