For the very first time, somebody with clout in the NFL has acknowledged that there is a link between football-related head trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, according to Steve Fainaru of ESPN.
During a discussion on concussions with the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce, the league's senior vice president for health and safety, Jeff Miller, confirmed that a credible link has been established between football and neurodegenerative diseases like CTE.
Miller was reportedly asked by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. if the link has been established and he answered "Certainly yes."
The official stance from Roger Goodell and the NFL to this point has been that the science hasn't conclusively established such a link. But Miller says he based his assessment on the work of a Boston University neuropathologist who diagnosed CTE in the brains of 90 of 94 former NFL players. The doctor, Ann McKee, has diagnosed CTE in 176 people in total.
But Miller noted that what's most important is what happens next.
"I think the broader point, and the one that your question gets to, is what that necessarily means, and where do we go from here with that information," Miller reportedly said.
Schakowsky has a history of taking the league to task over CTE and its previous denials. Dr. Mitch Berger, a neurosurgeon who leads the NFL's subcommittee on long-term brain injury, said there was no link between football and CTE, a claim that Schakowsky dismissed as the NFL "peddling a false sense of security."
When asked about Berger's position, which was stated shortly before this year's Super Bowl, Miller declined to speak on Berger's behalf.
At this point, it's significant that someone like Miller has admitted to a link, but he doesn't speak for the NFL as a whole and the league's long history of denying such a link and fighting this kind of discussion doesn't inspire much confidence that change is on the way. However, the conversation as a whole can be seen as positive progress, as ESPN reported it contained "more than a dozen concussion experts" and also included representatives from the NCAA, NFL, the scientific community at large, the federal government and the military.