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  • A First: NFL Official Acknowledges Link Between Football-Related TBI and CTE

    In what The Washington Post described as "a stunning admission," a top official of the National Football League (NFL) has publicly conceded a link between head injuries in football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—a connection that the league has previously refused to clearly acknowledge.

    Jeff Miller, the NFL's senior vice president for health and safety, was participating in a roundtable discussion held by the US House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce when he was asked whether there was a link between diseases such as CTE and football-related head injuries. "The answer to that question is certainly yes," he said.

    Miller's statement, which some believe was unintentional, marks the first time an NFL official has acknowledged such a connection. According to a report from ESPN, Miller's acknowledgement came after Ann McKee, a neuropathologist, outlined her findings around the prevalence of CTE among former NFL players. When pressed for his opinion, Miller answered that McKee had established a connection, but added that "there's also a number of questions that come with that."

    Miller refused to answer reporters' questions after the meeting. In an interview with the Post, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy stressed that while Miller did acknowledge the link in McKee's findings, he also said that "the experts should speak to the state of the science."

    "We want the facts, so we can develop solutions," McCarthy continued to the Post. "We know the answers will come as this field of study continues to advance."

    Critics of the NFL argue that the league has, at best, only vaguely nodded to a connection between head trauma and CTE in football.

    According to ESPN, Miller's comment is already being used by a lawyer representing former NFL players who are objecting to a proposed settlement of a concussion lawsuit filed against the NFL by players. In a letter to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, attorney Steven Molo describes Miller's admission as a "stark turn" in the NFL's position, and one that "directly contradicted" what the league had earlier claimed.

    Physical therapists have a critical role in concussion prevention and management. APTA offers multiple resources on concussion, which include a Traumatic Brain Injury webpage, and a clinical summary on concussion available for free to members on PTNow. The association also offers a patient-focused Physical Therapist's Guide to Concussion on APTA's MoveForwardPT.com consumer website. Continuing education offerings from APTA include the prerecorded webinar "Managing Concussions With an Interprofessional Team" and the online course "Concussion and the Postconcussive Syndrome,” both available through the APTA Learning Center.

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