Gary Bettman, a Commissioner for the National Hockey League (NHL) has vehemently denied the connection between concussions and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). The NHL has been brought to court by former players who contend that the league did not convey to them the risks of the sport and supported their exposure to concussions. The brains of six deceased former NHL players have been identified as showing the signs of CTE. This action is similar to the lawsuit filed on behalf of the former football players who sued the NFL for the effects of multiple concussions causing cognitive, emotional and physical problems later in life. In the deceased former NFL players like Junior Seau, Mike Webster, Dave Dursen and Frank Gifford and many others those problems have been identified as CTE.
Bettman’s denial of the concussion risk was made to pointed questions sent to him by Senator Richard Blumenthal (Conneticut) who sits on the Consumer Protection Sub-Committee. Bettman blames the media for spreading fear and referred to the clinical investigation into CTE and concussions as “nascent science”. This response flies in the face of evidence of CTE in six deceased former NHL players including: Derek Boogard, Bob Probert and Wade Bellak. Just a few weeks ago in NeuroNotes we wrote about a former player who lives in constant fear of the problems related to his cognitive and behavioral problems following numerous concussions.
Jeff Miller, the NFL’s Senior Vice President for Health and Safety when asked about the connection between concussions and CTE, replied “Yes”.
Bettman’s stance is alarming as the scientific facts are piling up. The work of Dr. Bennett Omalu first recognized the tau deposits in Mike Webster’s brain and set the stage for the early confrontations with the NFL. Omalu’s work continues and his results have been replicated in studies at the Boston Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy and other research facilities. Now with the NFL recognizing the link and research studies moving forward producing consistent results the position of the National Hockey League is nothing but bizarre.