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February 26, 2024
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February 26, 2024

The NFL and CTE


Last season at a game against the Philadelphia Eagles on October 4, Washington Red Skins tight end Jordan Reed took the bench after a concussion, sitting out the next four games. 

Historically speaking, the NFL has distanced itself from the proposal that chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is directly linked to a contact sport like Football.  Despite the former party line on the subject, the NFL recently backpedaled their statements Tuesday, March 15, when an NFL representative admitted to the link between CTE and Football.
After an onslaught of medical and social information on CTE (in all sports) the NFL has been under heavy public pressure to address the problematic issues of CTE. The topic has become so prevalent today that it has even reached mainstream media outlets, including ESPN and other institutions which previously distanced themselves because of financial pressure from the NFL.
Back in 2013, ESPN and Frontline were working on an investigative documentary, but ESPN’s role in the film eventually died out as the NFL tightened their financial chokehold. Disney, which owns ESPN, paid the NFL one billion dollars a year for the rights to Monday Night Football. With concerns of losing the lucrative television deal, ESPN decided to back out of their commitment. Following ESPN’s self-removal from the project, the NFL made their own statement:
“At no time did we formally or informally ask them to divorce themselves from the project,” Greg Alello, an NFL representative stated to Time. “We know the movie was happening and the book was happening, and we respond to them as best we can. We deny that we pressured them.”

So what brought the NFL a recent change of heart?
While the NFL originally silenced CTE whistleblowers, the organization has completely flip-flopped their opinion on the subject. This change of heart potentially came about because of recent spotlight attention on the traumatic disease. Even the recent blockbuster film “Concussion,” starring Will Smith, focused on the Nigerian-American Doctor who first found a link between the devastating disease and contact sports, specifically the NFL.
Following public scrutiny, an NFL representative released a contradicting statement when asked if there is a link between football and CTE. The NFL’s Senior Vice President of Health and Safety Policy, Jeff Miller, said Monday, “The answer to that question is certainly yes.”
 This is the first public statement by the NFL that acknowledges the link between the disease and the NFL. Miller cited the work of Boston University’s Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist that diagnosed CTE in 90 of the 94 former NFL players that she has performed brain autopsies on.

Although the NFL released the statement acknowledging the problem, it doesn’t really resolve the overall issue. People are still going to be diagnosed with CTE as long as contact sports exist. Beyond that, NFL players can’t be financially assisted until after they are dead, or once they show severe signs of the disease. In this case, the players are still left in an awful predicament.
So, where does this leave us? Ultimately, CTE will always exist as long as people get concussions. While health and safety protocols can be adjusted, the disease will always occur in such a brutal and physical sport. Until the NFL’s extreme financial incentives disappear, CTE in the modern day gladiator will always exist.