NHL re­futes hits and brain dis­or­der

Let­ter to U.S. sen­a­tor re­states no de­fin­i­tive proof ‘yet’ link­ing con­cus­sions to de­gen­er­a­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - MARISSA PAYNE

Na­tional Hockey League com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman con­tin­ues to re­fute the link be­tween con­cus­sions and chronic trau­matic en­cephalopa­thy (CTE).

CTE is a de­gen­er­a­tive brain dis­or­der that can lead to men­tal health is­sues and even sui­cide. Bettman made his lat­est state­ment on the mat­ter in a 24-page let­ter ad­dressed to U.S. Sen­a­tor Richard Blu­men­thal, who has been crit­i­cal of the NHL’s po­si­tion on con­cus­sions and CTE.

“[T]he science re­gard­ing CTE, in­clud­ing on the as­serted ‘link’ to con­cus­sions ..., re­mains nascent, par­tic­u­larly with re­spect to what causes CTE and whether it can be di­ag­nosed by spe­cific clin­i­cal symp­toms,” Bettman writes in the let­ter pub­lished by the New York Times on Tues­day.

Bettman blamed the me­dia for cre­at­ing a cul­ture of “fear mon­ger­ing” around the is­sue and ranted against “widely pub­li­cized mis­in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ing to a sup­posed causal con­nec­tion be­tween con­cus­sions and CTE.”

“At bottom, the science just has not ad­vanced to the point where cau­sa­tion de­ter­mi­na­tions can re­spon­si­bly be made,” he said, adding that the NHL’s stance on the mat­ter re­flects “med­i­cal con­sen­sus” that “a causal link be­tween con­cus­sions and CTE has not been es­tab­lished.”

“If that con­sen­sus changes, so, too, will my an­swers,” he added.

Re­ac­tion to Bettman’s let­ter has been largely neg­a­tive among hockey fans, some of whom be­lieve Bettman has fallen be­hind the curve, es­pe­cially in com­par­i­son to the Na­tional Foot­ball League, which only this year ac­knowl­edged the link be­tween con­cus­sions and CTE.

When asked if he there was a link be­tween foot­ball and CTE dur­ing a con­gres­sional round­table in March, the NFL’s se­nior vice-pres­i­dent for health and safety, Jeff Miller, said, “The an­swer to that ques­tion is cer­tainly yes.”

The NFL made the stun­ning ad­mis­sion af­ter years of re­fut­ing a link while at­tempt­ing to fight a class-ac­tion law­suit filed on be­half of for­mer play­ers who suf­fered con­cus­sions while in the league.

In April 2015, the court ap­proved a set­tle­ment be­tween the two sides.

One year an ap­peals court up­held the de­ci­sion that made the league ac­count­able for up­wards of $1 bil­lion in mone­tary re­wards to the group of around 4,500 re­tired play­ers.


NHL com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman: Science says there is not a clear link be­tween con­cus­sions and CTE. “If that con­sen­sus changes, so, too, will my an­swers.”

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