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NHL's Bettman Denies Link Between Concussions, CTE

Jason Scott

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman doubled down on his stance that there is not sufficient evidence to prove that concussions are linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative brain disease at the center of a class-action lawsuit against the league.

Bettman, responding to a written inquiry by U.S. senator Richard Blumenthal, wrote a 24-page response in which he claimed that the scientific jury was still out.

“The science regarding CTE, including on the asserted ‘link’ to concussions that you reference, remains nascent, particularly with respect to what causes CTE and whether it can be diagnosed by specific clinical symptoms,” Bettman wrote. “The relationship between concussions and the asserted clinical symptoms of CTE remains unknown.”

CTE has been discovered in six deceased former NHL players, and 105 ex-players have joined the class-action suit.

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Bettman blamed the media for stoking concerns about the long-term impact of head injuries, and said that the ex-players involved in the suit are getting caught up in the hype.

“This, sadly, is precisely the type of tragedy that can result when the plaintiffs’ lawyers and their media consultants jump ahead of the medical community and assert, without reliable scientific support, that there is a causal link between concussions and CTE,” Bettman said. “Certainly a more measured approach consistent with the medical community consensus would be a safer, more prudent course.”

Meanwhile, the NFL, another league dealing with the issue of concussions and CTE, seemed to have acknowledged that a link exists. In March, NFL executive vice president of health and safety policy Jeff Miller responded to a question about a link between CTE and concussions, saying "the answer to that question is certainly yes."

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