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Top NFL Offcial Acknowledges Link Between American Football And Brain Injury

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A top executive of National Football League, or NFL, has acknowledged a link between head trauma in American football and the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Jeff Miller, the NFL's Executive Vice President for health and safety, is the first league executive to make such a concession.

Neurosurgeon Mitch Berger, who leads the NFL's subcommittee on long-term brain injury, had said earlier this year that there is no point to prove that American football and CTE are related.

At a round-table discussion on concussions before the House Committee on Energy & Commerce Tuesday, Miller was asked if a doctor's research showed a connection between hits in football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. His answer was "certainly yes."

Miller cited the work of Boston University neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee. She had found CTE in the brains of 90 former NFL players.

"Well certainly Dr. McKee's research shows that a number of retired NFL players were diagnosed with CTE, so the answer to that question is certainly yes but there's also a number of questions that come with that," said Miller.

The league later issued a statement, clarifying Miller's remarks.

"He was discussing Dr. McKee's findings and made the additional point that a lot more questions need to be answered," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. "He said that the experts should speak to the state of the science."

"We want the facts, so we can develop better solutions," McCarthy said, adding that NFL is deeply committed to advancing medical research on head trauma, including CTE. "We know the answers will come as this field of study continues to advance."

Some 5,000 former players have sued the NFL, claiming it hid the dangers of repeated head trauma.

CTE is a progressive degenerative disease found in people who have had a severe blow to the head. It is associated with symptoms such as memory loss, depression and progressive dementia. CTE cannot currently be detected during lifetime. The only known diagnosis for CTE occurs by studying the brain tissue after death. Among the players found to have CTE in their brains was Hall of Famer Junior Seau.

An attorney representing some of the retired players who are part of an appeal of a concussion settlement with the league approved by a judge last April characterized Miller's statement as contradicting the NFL's previous positions in the case.

"The NFL's comments further signal the NFL's acceptance of Dr. McKee's conclusions regarding CTE -- a stark turn from its position before the district court, which relied on the NFL's experts to dismiss the significance of that same research," Steven Molo wrote in a letter to the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

But in a letter also filed Tuesday with the court, NFL attorney Paul Clement said Miller's remarks have no bearing on the pending appeal, and that the scientific community indisputably acknowledges that the causes of CTE remain unknown and the subject of extensive medical and scientific research.

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