Gary Bettman, the NHL Commissioner, has embarked on a mission to disprove the connection between concussions and CTE. Mr. Bettman unrolled his strategy by requesting that Boston University, a key research point in the concussion studies, provide unpublished material and data and private medical records to the NHL. The NHL is defending itself in a lawsuit filed by former professional players and their families seeking compensation for deaths, injuries and disabilities caused by multiple concussions. The request for Boston Universities material was described to “probe the scientific for basis published conclusions” and “confirm the accuracy of published findings”. Boston University has published more than 60 studies in peer-reviewed journals and has no involvement in the NHL lawsuit. Bettman contends that “the relationship between concussion and the symptoms of CTE remains unknown”.
CTE was diagnosed in 5 former professional hockey players and in 92 of 96 former NFL players in the studies conducted by Boston University. The NHL is following in the footsteps of the NFL who clearly used the strategies of the tobacco industry when they attempted to disavow the connection between smoking and cancer. Needless to say, that strategy does not work and earned the NFL the distinction of being called the “League of Denial” by former players in a documentary film of the same title. Similarly, every cigarette package sold in this country carries a serious health risk warning.
The NHL strategy is an attempt to create a parallel universe which is more to their benefit. Clearly, it is not a universe where fact is needed. NeuroNotes has published many blogs related to sports concussions and CTE which reference the studies conducted by Boston University and other research institutions. Several of those blogs were about NHL hockey players whose lives were impacted by multiple concussions and CTE. The NHL gets to share the League of Denial title. Even the NFL has openly recognized the connection between concussions and CTE and initiated action.