Many people are talking about the bombshell that was dropped during yesterday’s congressional hearing. NFL executive Jeff Miller admitted to a link between CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and NFL football.
To me and I think many in the medical world, it’s not a huge deal. We’ve been studying CTE in football players for the past decade. But, for those in the legal field, this news could mean a major expansion of lawsuits against the NFL.
What’s more, either way you look at it, when parents sit down to ask themselves, “Will I allow my child to play football?” I do believe news like this is going to start to affect the game significantly.
This week, I spoke with 1590 WAKR morning show host Ray HORNER about this recent event.
Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.
DR. CONGENI: Hi, Ray. How you doin’?
HORNER: I am doing well today. What do you have for us?
DR. CONGENI: Well … depending on how you look at it whether it’s big news or not, [during] the congressional hearing yesterday [was] the admission by the NFL executive, uh, Jeff Miller that there is a link between CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and, uh, NFL football.
DR. CONGENI: I think you probably saw that … saw the clip. Uh, for people in the medical world, I don’t think it’s any big deal at all. I think, you know, this is what we’ve been studying in the last 5 or 7 or 10 years: People with the, uh, extensive football experience that have a serious set of symptoms when they’re alive, when they pass away we look at the brain and diagnose this degenerative condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
For people in the legal world, I guess this admission was really a big deal. It is a big deal, and so everybody is really pointing to it as a landmark thing that they, uh, in the House of Representatives from Illinois, got Jeff Miller to admit that there was a link.
I guess there’s really 2 ways to look at it. There’s a big story today in The New York Times. I guess in the legal world you could either look at this [as it’s] either going to greatly expand the lawsuits against the NFL, uh, for CTE or the other side of the coin is [accepting the risk].
Now, perhaps, it would be the point that the NFL has, uh, admitted to having a link that you are, uh, accepting the risk if you play in the NFL; that you know there may be some risk of this degenerative brain condition and that, uh, there may not be as much in the legal world of lawsuits.
So … we were really, I think, taken off guard and surprised in the medical world that it was supposedly such a bombshell, such a big admission. I really think the bigger thing was 2 weeks ago the, uh, lawsuit and the settlement against Pop Warner football for a young man, who at age 25 committed suicide. [He] played through Pop Warner football and there was a settlement out of court against Pop Warner.
But … as you know this is all in the legal world. You know, in the medical world, we try to study this. I think in a lot of areas of concussion we’re coming up with some answers.
In the area of CTE, it’s harder to come up with answers quickly because really we still have no way to diagnose this degenerative condition unless the person has passed away. [Then], we are able to look at their brain under a microscope. So, it’s taking more time to determine things.
One of the things that’s really confusing is there are so many different expressions of CTE. So, people who retrospectively we know had this degenerative condition like say, Frank Gifford, who lived a very long life … in the public eye for a long period of time and did not have a very significant expression of this, and then [there are] others who died very young, like Dave Duerson and Junior Seau. So, there are variable expressions to it.
It’s hard to know if any changes we’re making now in the last 5 years, the protocols and such, are having any affect on it. And, we probably won’t have those answers for a few years.
But anyway, yesterday in this congressional hearing was supposedly a bombshell that the NFL admitted that it had a link.
The NFL’s top health and safety officer acknowledged there is a link between football-related head trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE — the first time a senior league official has conceded football’s connection to the devastating brain disease.
HORNER: Well, Joe, I agree when I saw the news come down yesterday. I thought this was huge, but it seems like it’s trying to be swept underneath the carpet. You’re not seeing a whole lot on this.
DR. CONGENI: Yeah, I guess … that, uh, it depends, again, in what world you live in. I think, uh, people in the medical world we’re still looking at it as being a pretty small number.
I think I was really more interested yesterday in what the doctor who was on the panel talked about, Dr. Ann McKee. She, at Boston University, is the person doing all the research.
I really would like to hear more about some of the issues she’s coming up with. And, the ones again that are most interesting and concerning to us are the cases like the Pop Warner case because that kid was diagnosed at such a young age.
I think some of those things now have moved out of the conscience of people in America, but I do think that when the parents sit down to answer the question of “Will my kid play?” I do believe that as we see the years go on it’s gonna start to affect this game significantly.
HORNER: Alright, Joe, great stuff again, as always. Thanks for the update with us; appreciate the time. We’ll catch up with you next week.
DR. CONGENI: Okay, Ray. Have a great week.
HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni from Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital.