More fuel was added to the fire of those who believe the NFL isn’t doing enough to help understand the link between football and brain disease.
ESPN’s Outside the Lines reports the National Football League has backed out of “one of the most ambitious studies yet” on the relationship between football and brain disease. The NFL, through spokesman Brian McCarthy, has publicly refuted the story.
ESPN story is not accurate. NFL did not pull any funding. NIH makes its own decisions.
— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) December 22, 2015
Sources told OTL the league didn’t participate in the study because it was to be led by prominent Boston University researchers who have been critical of the league. The seven-year, $16 million project was to be funded out of a $30 million grant the NFL gave the National Institutes of Health in 2012. If true, the NFL clearly wasn’t happy the NIH awarded the grant to a party they knew would be critical.
OTL reports when the NFL gave the NIH the $30 million, the money came with “no strings attached;” however, an NIH official told them part of the term was they retained veto power over projects. That power was seemingly exercised.
The NFL delayed the announcement of the decision for months, but the NIH remained committed to funding the project even without the NFL’s help.
“This problem is larger than the NFL,” said Dr. Walter Koroshetz, director of NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “We’re trying to get answers for people. There are a lot of concerned people out there, especially parents of kids.”
Eric Nauman, a professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Purdue University says the NFL controls everything.
“Up until now they have controlled every dollar that they have spent on this issue,” Nauman told OTL. “There was no way they were going to just give that money to the NIH and say, ‘Do whatever you want.”
Dr. Koroshetz, however, did say the NFL never directly told him they were refusing to support the CTE study.
“No one has ever said that to me: ‘The NFL said no,'” he said. “They’re their own organization. They have committed $30 million; I am hopeful they stick to their commitment. If they don’t, then I’ll be upset.”
If OTL is correct, the NFL would be wise to support the project, even if they have a disdain for Boston University researchers, because with stories like Chris Borland retiring after playing for only one year in fear of getting a traumatic brain injury, or the upcoming Concussion film based on true events, they could come out of this looking like the good guys for once. Also, the money could help save a lot of lives, so there’s that, NFL. There’s that.