For all its supposed concern and lip service about worrying about its players, the National Football League continues to stubbornly refuse to face facts about the link between repeated head injuries and long term brain damage.
This is clearly demonstrated by a telling story that The New York Times published Thursday, “N.F.L. Doctor Says Disease Is Overstated.”
The article said that according to an internal memorandum, a physician on the NFL’s head, neck and spine committee wanted a mention of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE, removed from a fact sheet for retired players that was being drafted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
CTE, a degenerative brain diseases whose symptoms are similar to Alzheimer’s, has been found in the brains of dozens of deceased football and hockey players — including several who have committed suicide. All evidence points to repeated head trauma as the cause of this disease.
Yet when the government sought input from experts when it was preparing its brain injury fact sheet for retired NFL players, the unidentified NFL doctor wanted the reference to CTE taken out, according to The Times.
The doctor noted that CTE wasn’t on the death certificates of the deceased players and suggested that the term traumatic brain injury, TBI, be used in the fact sheet rather than CTE.
It would be a pretty good trick to have CTE on a death certificate, since it requires careful examination of a sample of a person’s brain tissue to diagnose. And that kind of work isn’t usually done until months after a person has passed away, and a brain sample is easy to harvest.
The NFL doctor’s suggested change was tossed out, as well it should have been. The Times quoted experts who said that the doctor’s desire to eliminate the CTE reference “was inappropriate and not in line with prevailing research.”
But then, brain injury and CTE are touchy subjects for the NFL, which is being sued by about 4,000 of its current and former players over the issue.
The fact sheet that NIOSH distributed in January was based on research that had found that players could be at a greater risk of death from Alzheimer’s and other brain malfunctions, according to The Times.