NFL Backs Away From Funding Major Brain Study
The National Football League has backed out of one of the most ambitious studies yet on the relationship between football and brain disease.
According to an ESPN.com news report, the seven-year $16-million study was to be funded out of a $30 million research grant the NFL gave the National Institutes of Health in 2012.
NFL officials said they pulled the funding because it has no control how the money would be spent.
But ESPN reports the real reason may have been because NIH awarded the project to a group led by Dr. Robert Stern, a Boston University researcher who has been a vocal critic of the league.
In a news release announcing the study, Boston University said, the project, which aims to find a way to diagnose traumatic encephalopathy or CTE in living patients, will be funded by NIH.
The NFL’s decision not to fund BU’s CTE study delayed this announcement for months.
But the NIH remained committed to funding the project regardless of NFL’s participation in it, ESPN reports. The NFL also reportedly raised objections to selection of Stern. NIH eventually decided to fund this important study on its own.
NFL Players and Brain Damage
Earlier this year, a federal judge approved a $1-billion settlement between the NFL and thousands of former players who accused the league of hiding the link between football and brain damage.
Stern filed a formal opposition to the settlement saying that it would deny fair compensation to many deserving players including some of the most severely disabled. But Stern has maintained that as a scientist, his research or findings will have nothing to do with what he thinks or says about the league.
Between 2003 and 2009, the NFL published its own research denying that football players suffer brain damage as a result of sustaining repeated concussions during play.
The Damage Done
CTE has had devastating effects on former NFL players’ lives and those of their families. Some of the common symptoms of CTE include memory loss, difficulty controlling impulsive or erratic behavior, impaired judgment, behavioral issues such as aggression and depression, balance issues and a gradual onset of dementia.
An individual with CTE is often at risk of receiving wrong diagnosis because many of the symptoms are similar to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
CTE has been diagnosed in many notable cases that have received media attention including the suicide deaths of NFL player Junior Seau and professional wrestler Chris Benoit who killed himself after murdering his wife and son.
Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed after the death of the person. A number of former NFL players, most recently Frank Gifford, have been diagnosed with this terrible disease after their deaths because their families donated the players’ brains for scientific research relating to CTE.
As California traumatic brain injury lawyers who represent injured victims and their families, we are pleased that NIH is funding this critical study, which is will hopefully provide patients in the future with timely diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.