BOCA RATON—A week ago, the NFL claimed a link between football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety policy, was asked by Representative Jan Schakowsky if there was a connection between football and degenerative brain disorders, and he said, “The answer to that is certainly, yes.”
This is a huge topic of conversation at the NFL’s League Meeting, being held this week at the Boca Raton Resort.
“There’s no secret that repeated concussions can have a very serious long-term effect [on players],” said Giants co-owner John Mara. “And I am startled to a certain extent by the rise in concussions this year because we were on a steady downward trend for the last three years, and all of a sudden they spiked up this year, and we’re still trying to understand why that is.
“We understand more than we did years ago, but we’re still not even close to having the knowledge that we need to have going forward. That’s why we’re spending millions of dollars in research and trying to understand more about this issue. That’s why we have the leading experts, we think, in the country on our health and safety committee. So we have a long way to go on that issue. It’s the number-one challenge going forward, and everything else we talk about this week is secondary to that.”
Another New York owner, Woody Johnson of the Jets, also addressed this lightening-rod issue.
“One of the things everyone should know is the league, the owners, are always concerned about player health, player safety,” Johnson said. “I come from a health business (Johnson & Johnson), so my whole life has revolved some ways about health, so we take these issues very, very seriously.
“We want to make the game as safe as we possibly can. It is football, it is a contact sport, but if we can take ridiculous plays out, like using your helmet as a weapon and all the things we’ve done, 38, 40 rule changes by now, probably more after we are done this week, it should [improve], without destroying the nature of the game.”
Johnson feels there is still a long way to go in studying brain injuries vis-à-vis football.
“I know a little bit about brain science,” Johnson said. “I know a lot about the heart, a lot about the joints, we know a lot about the rest of the body, but the one area we don’t know as much about, is [the brain].”