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Gary Bettman says 'no evidence yet' that playing hockey causes brain damage

The NHL commissioner denied any link between his sport and CTE.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman visited Game 3 between the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, and took time during the first intermission to subtly deny that playing hockey could lead to brain damage.

Concussions and the effects they have on an athlete's brain is an important topic in the sports realm these days. The NHL has spent the last few years addressing hits that target players' heads, but Bettman was asked on Thursday about the topic nonetheless.

CTE stands for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that has been found in over 50 deceased former NFL players. The NFL was recently sued by over 4,500 former players who alleged the league had concealed a link between playing football and brain damage. That case was settled for $765 million. The NHL is mired in a similar lawsuit filed by 29 players in February.

Meanwhile, at least one report from the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology in 2009 concluded that CTE in athletes could be "entirely prevented" if teams followed proper guidelines for return to play after a concussion.

So on one hand, you can understand Bettman's insistence on denying any link between his league's sport and CTE. On the other, it's not exactly a reassuring thing to hear from the man who can wield the power to make players feel safer on the ice.