While the subject of brain injuries, concussion and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) have swirled around the NFL for years, recent developments have brought the disease, and the NFL’s part in it, to the forefront in many ways.
In 2013, the NFL settled a suit involving 4,500 former players and their estates who had all alleged that different forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and CTE, were a direct result of concussions and head injuries suffered while they played pro football. At the time, no one from the NFL would admit or even speak about the connection between these forms of dementia, as well as other conditions like PTSD, depression and anxiety and the game.
The settlement in 2013 was made as a result of mediation ordered by a federal court. According to an NFL.com news story
in August of 2013, Commissioner Rodger Goodell told league lawyers to, “do the right thing for the game and the men who played it." The settlement terms covered only prior cases of illness or death, and took no responsibility for any future cases.
The fact that future cases were not included and that the league still was not admitting any connection caused some players to appeal the 2013 settlement. Dr. Ann McKee, the director of The CTE Center in Boston at BU Medical School found that 96%
of the former NFL players who had donated their brains to research after death were found to have CTE and it was this data that kept some players from accepting any settlement that did not include future cases of the devastating disease.
On March 14, 2016 at a roundtable discussion
in Washington DC held by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Jeff Miller, the NFL's executive vice president for health and safety, was answering questions from Representative Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill, who had also questioned McKee in the same discussion.
Schakowsky asked Miller about the research done at BU and his answer was:
“Well, 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,' but there are also a number of questions that come with that," Miller said.
Schakowsky interrupted and stressed again, "Is there a link?"
"Yes. Sure," Miller responded.
In an article by ESPN Senior Writer Steve Fainaru
, the exchange was detailed further with Schakowsky’s comments on what Dr. Mitchell Berger said in January around the time of the Super Bowl.
"Because we feel -- well, I feel -- that was not the unequivocal answer three days before the Super Bowl by Dr. Mitchel Berger."
"Well, I'm not gonna speak for Dr. Berger," Miller said.
Upon hearing what Miller said in the hearing, Steven Molo, the attorney for NFL players challenging the settlement, wrote to the federal court
, “The NFL’s comments further signal the NFL’s acceptance of Dr. McKee’s conclusions regarding CTE — a stark turn from its position before the district court, which relied on the NFL’s experts to dismiss the significance of the same research.” Molo is seeking to have future cases of CTE included in any settlement.
Take a look at the video below to hear more about Miller’s statements at the discussion in Washington and how those statements might affect the appeal of the 2013 settlement.