Currently, researchers can detect Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in the brains of deceased patients only. Dr. Robert Stern of Boston University believes that a test that would detect the football-related brain disease in the living is only 5-10 years away.
The head of the brain bank currently affiliated with Boston University has called out the league for failure to fund the effort to develop a test for CTE in patients who have not yet died.
Via Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, Chris Nowinski chided the NFL after a Thursday press conference regarding the league’s funding of concussion diagnosis and prevention techniques.
“Their attempt to prevent that study from being funded is frankly a slap in the face to every family suffering from CTE right now,” Nowinski said, via Kaplan. Comparing the NFL to the tobacco industry, Nowinski said the NFL has an issue not with concussions but with CTE.
“I am a firm believer that no one should be playing tackle football before high school, ” Nowinski said. “The NFL is strongly funding and underwriting youth football in this country, through USA football, through the heads up football, through the mom marketing program, and Commissioner Goodell going and teaching tackling to mothers . . . that is like big tobacco teaching kids how to smoke.”
Said the NFL in response, via Kaplan, “We have probably given more money to BU than anyone else, either directly, through money we gave to the NIH, or by supporting other grant applications. Far from trying to block a study, we offered to contribute to the funding. We promote all kinds of youth football — flag and tackle — as well as general youth physical fitness no matter the sport or activity. Medical studies and leading medical groups do not support a ban on young people participating in contact sports.”
Kaplan also writes that Dr. Mitch Berger, a member of the NFL’s Head, Neck, and Spine Committee, “cast doubt” on the connection between CTE and brain trauma, suggesting that not enough work has been done to explore the link between genetics and CTE. Kaplan writes that Nowinksi shook his head at Berger’s remarks.
And so it appears that the league that at one point denied the existence of CTE may be trying to deny its link to football. Which means that there eventually could be a sequel to Concussion.