Top NFL official sort of admits there's a link between football and CTE

First: NFL Admits Link Between Football And Brain Disease

For obvious reasons, the NFL has never been keen on admitting there's a link between football injuries and CTE, a degenerative brain disease that disproportionately affects football players. Even when the league professed its commitment to researching the connection, officials at the National Institute of Health were skeptical of its true motivation. However, in a congressional hearing on CTE that took place in Washington, D.C. this afternoon, Jeff Miller, the NFL's executive vice president of health and safety policy, said there is "certainly" a link between football and brain disorders such as CTE — he's the first high-ranking NFL official to say so outright.

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During the hearing, Representative Jan Schakowsky directly asked both Miller and Ann McKee, director of the neuropathology core at Boston University's Alzheimer's Disease Center, about the connection. (In the video above, her comments begin at the 1:24:00 mark.) "I want to ask what I think is a yes or no question," she said. "Do you think there is a link between football and brain disorders like CTE?" McKee replied that she "unequivocally" thinks there's a link and goes on to site the extremely high proportion of CTE cases in professional, college, and high school football players. "The fact that over five years I've been able to accumulate this number of cases in football players — it cannot be rare," she said. "In fact, I think we're going to be surprised at how common it is."

See prominent cases of NFL players with CTE:

Prominent cases of NFL players with CTE
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Top NFL official sort of admits there's a link between football and CTE
PITTSBURGH, PA - CIRCA 1987: Mike Webster #52 of Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during a game circa 1987 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Webster played for the Steelers from 1974-88. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Sporting News via Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 19: Quarterback Earl Morrall #15 of the Miami Dolphins looks on from the sidelines against the New York Jets during an NFL football game at The Orange Bowl November 19, 1972 in Miami, Florida. Morrall played for the Dolphins from 1972-76. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
3 NOV 2002: San Diego Chargers Junior Seau during a game against the New York Jets at the Qualcomm Stadium Sunday November 3, 2002, in San Diego, CA. (Photo by Matt A. Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 25: Inside linebacker Jovan Belcher #59 of the Kansas City Chiefs wathces from the sideliens during his final game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium on November 25, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
25 Oct 1998: Defensive tackle Shane Dronett #75 of the Atlanta Falcons in action during the game against the New York Jets at the Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets defeated the Falcons 28-3. Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw /Allsport
1985: Dave Duerson #22 of the Chicago Bears looks on during a game in the 1985 season. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - CIRCA 1950s: Frank Gifford provides the classic throwing motion in his University of Southern California Trojans uniform. Following his college days, Gifford went on to star for the NFL's New York Giants, then worked as a broadcaster for CBS and ABC's Monday Night Football. (University of Southern California/Collegiate Images via Getty Images)

Then it's Miller's turn. "The answer to that question is certainly yes," he said. "But there's also a number of questions that come with that." Schakowsky presses him: "That was not the unequivocal answer three days before the Super Bowl by Dr. Mitchel Berger" (a member of the NFL's Head, Neck and Spine Committee who outright denied the link at a press conference February 4). Miller avoids answering the question directly a second time, instead saying that McKee's research indicates a link, but his admission is a step forward for a league that's historically refused to face such data.

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