NHL commissioner: Concussion-CTE link isn't established

By The Sports Xchange
National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI
National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is not ready to acknowledge a correlation between game-action head trauma and the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

While responding to written questions from a United States senator about the effects of concussions in hockey, Bettman denied a link between concussions and CTE, the New York Times reported in a story published Tuesday night.


"The science regarding CTE, including on the asserted 'link' to concussions that you reference, remains nascent, particularly with respect to what causes CTE and whether it can be diagnosed by specific clinical symptoms," Bettman wrote in a response to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). "A causal link between concussions and CTE has not been demonstrated" and "the relationship between concussion and the asserted clinical symptoms of CTE remains unknown."

Bettman appears to be trying to discredit the effects of CTE while the NHL is dealing with a class-action lawsuit that includes 105 former players, who say that the league did not warn them of the long-term effects of head injuries.

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According to the Times, CTE has been diagnosed in six deceased former NHL players, as well as around 100 former football players.


"The relationship between concussions and the asserted clinical symptoms of C.T.E. remains unknown," Bettman wrote.

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The NFL last week took steps to distance itself from Bettman's way of thinking, forcing the retirement of medical adviser Elliot Pellman, who formed a committee in 1994 that spent decades producing studies that portrayed concussions as minor injuries.

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Bettman appears to be taking the opposite approach, accusing the media of fear-mongering regarding the long-term effects of head injuries in contact sports.

"Ultimately, the most concerning aspect of the current public dialogue about concussions in professional sports (as well as youth sports) is the implicit premise that hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of individuals who have participated in contact sports at the high school, collegiate and/or professional levels are not only at a high level of risk for, but actually more than likely to develop, a degenerative, irreversible brain disease, and that they should be informed as such," Bettman wrote. "The NHL chooses to be guided on this very serious subject by the medical consensus of experts examining the science, not the media hype driven in part by plaintiffs' counsel."


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