The NFL has vetoed the use of $16 million worth of funds gifted to concussion research — a gift the league previously said came with "no strings attached,” according to a report from ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
ESPN's report stems from a $30 million gift the NFL provided to the National Institutes of Health in 2012, which at the time the league described as an “unrestricted” gift. However, when the NIH commissioned a seven-year, $16 million study on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the NFL vetoed its use of the funds.
The NFL’s objections to the study apparently lie with the study’s lead researcher. Robert Stern, one of the leading doctors in researching concussions and CTE, has in the past accused the league of hiding the severity of concussions from its players. He also wrote an essay denouncing the league’s settlement with former players, saying the settlement did not offer fair compensation .
Despite the NFL’s reluctance to participate, the study will still happen thanks to funding from the NIH.
CTE is a degenerative brain disease that is believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head and multiple concussions. The disease is said to cause memory loss, confusion, depression and aggressive behavior in former football players.
Since CTE can currently only be diagnosed after a patient has died, the NIH study will attempt to develop a test to diagnose the disease in living patients.
ESPN’s report comes just days before the release of “Concussion,” a movie starring Will Smith that follows a doctor’s quest to raise awareness of the dangers of concussions in football.
Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.