The NFL Sends Mixed Signals About Head Trauma, Backs Out On $16 Million Fund For ‘Holy Grail Of Concussion Research’

Remember when, a couple of weeks ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was caught laughing at a concussion joke? Seems like that may have just been a prelude of things to come from the NFL, because the league just backed out of a $16 million grant to help fund the biggest and most in-depth study on the relationship between football and brain disease.

The league, which has preached about doing everything and anything it can to help its former, current and future players in regards to head trauma, balked at the research by a prominent Boston University researcher, possibly, because the researcher has been critical of the league in the past.

Described as the “holy grail of concussion research: the ability to diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in living patients,” the NFL could have made a statement about just how serious they are about protecting their players, but balked when it came down to funding the project for whatever reason.

Here’s more from the Outside the Lines report:

Asked why the NFL did not want to fund the study, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy on Monday referred questions to the NIH, writing in an email: “The NIH makes its own funding decisions.” On Tuesday, McCarthy tweeted that the story was “wrong.”

The NFL’s decision not to fund the Boston University CTE study delayed its announcement for months, and the issue ultimately reached the office of NIH director Dr. Francis S. Collins, according to sources. As late as this week, some officials held out hope the league would change its mind, but the NIH remained committed to funding the project regardless.

“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.”

The aforementioned lead researcher, Robert Stern, is the man who has been critical of the league in the past, so, apparently, that was a factor in the NFL pulling out from funding the project, having concerns about Stern’s objectivity, per sources.

With the upcoming release of the movie Concussion—which stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic neuropathologist who discovered the first case of CTE in an NFL player—all of this concussion talk seems to be bad PR for the league.

Roger Goodell and the rest of the league office can say what they want to about how they’re trying to protect the future of football and how the relationship of head trauma can lead to CTE and other post-concussion affects, but they failed when it was time to put their money where their mouth is, and that should be an alarming statement for every football player.


Nick Dimengo avatar
Nick's a Sr. Editor for BroBible, mainly relying on his Sports Encyclopedia-like mind to write about things. He's also the co-host of the BroBible podcast "We Run This," and can be seen sweating his ass off while frequently running 10+ miles around Seattle.