Analysis - Link between football and CTE won't harm NFL brand

Tue Mar 15, 2016 5:39pm EDT
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By Frank Pingue

(Reuters) - The National Football League's acknowledgement that there is a link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) will do little to hurt the allure of the seemingly Teflon-coated organization.

Some sports industry analysts feel the NFL, which for years had denied any relationship between football-related head trauma and the degenerative brain condition, could benefit as it allows them to move on from their previous stance on CTE.

"I actually think that recognizing a link is actually a helpful pivot for the NFL both in terms of public relations and the future of the game," Robert Boland, director of the MBA and master's sports administration program at Ohio University, told Reuters in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

"It gets them out of the denial category and moves them more towards the idea that they are able to operate and work toward a solution."

NFL senior vice president for health and safety Jeff Miller acknowledged the link on Monday when he was asked during a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee whether a connection has been established between football and disorders such as CTE. [ID:nL2N16N00T]

Several dozen of the game's top players, including Hall of Famer Junior Seau, were diagnosed with CTE when doctors analyzed their brains after death. Currently, CTE can only be reliably determined postmortem.

While the admission came as a surprise, the fact that there is a connection between American football and CTE was likely not a revelation to passionate fans who watch America's most popular sport and cheer each bone-crushing hit.

The National Football League has taken steps to try and make the game safer but the issue has not gone away. There were 182 reported concussions last season, a rise of 58 percent over 2014, according to the NFL.   Continued...

A representative holds a new impact absorbing helmet at the NFL Headquarters in New York December 3, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid