The NFL had previously not publicly admitted a link between head injuries sustained playing football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy — commonly known as CTE — but that changed Monday.
Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety, was asked by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-III., if the link between football and neurodegenerative diseases like CTE has been established.
“The answer to that question is certainly yes,” Miller said during a roundtable discussion on concussions in Washington D.C., held by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy & Commerce, according to a report from ESPN’s Steve Fainaru.
The degenerative brain disease can occur due to repeated traumatic brain injuries. Some medical professionals have pointed to the the hard hits to the head in football as a risk to athletes for developing the disease. Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed after death.
Miller noted research by neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee as the basis for his statement to the committee. McKee has found CTE in the brain of 90 of 94 former NFL players she examined.
“I unequivocally think there’s a link between playing football and CTE,” McKee said Monday.
While there is still debate among the medical community, Miller’s admission is a change of tune from what senior NFL officials have been willing to say about the connection to this point.
“The NFL is peddling a false sense of security,” Schakowsky said during the discussions Monday. “Football is a high-risk sport because of the routine hits, not just diagnosable concussions. What the American public need now is honesty about the health risks and clearly more research.”