A top NFL official for the first time on Monday publicly admitted that there is a link between football and degenerative brain disease.
The NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety, Jeff Miller, was asked by Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois if there was a link between the sport and brain diseases like chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
“The answer to that question is certainly yes,” Miller said at a roundtable discussion on concussions hosted by the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Miller’s statement is a shift from the NFL’s previous stance that science had not established a conclusive link. Schakowsky asked Miller the question twice, stating that the NFL had not said there was an unequivocal tie in the days before the Super Bowl.
“I think the broader point and the one your questions gets to is what that necessarily means and where do we go from here with that information," Miller said.
Miller, though, pointed to the research by Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at Boston University School of Medicine, who found 90 of 94 former NFL players studied had CTE.
At the meeting, McKee said she also found CTE in the 45 out of 55 college players studied, as well as in six out of 26 high schoolers.
Even so, McKee said the figures don’t represent how common the disease is.
"The fact that in over five years I've been able to accumulate this number of cases in football players it cannot be rare," McKee said. "In fact I think we are going to be surprised at how common this is."
McKee added that it’s not just about concussions, but all head injuries which occur at every game at all levels. She said stakeholders have to find a way to keep track of the number of impacts players endure and then limit them.
"If there's something we can do to limit this risk it needs to be done immediately," McKee said.
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Adolfo Flores is a national security correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. He focuses on immigration.
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