On Monday, March 14, 2016, the National Football League's top health and safety officer, Jeff Miller acknowledged in sworn Congressional testimony that there is a link between football-related head trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy — or CTE. It’s the first time any senior NFL official has publicly acknowledged a connection between football head injuries and the degenerative brain disease, which can lead to aggression and dementia, and can only be diagnosed after death.
We spoke with Kevin Blackistone, a Washington Post sports columnist, ESPN "Around the Horn" panelist and sports journalism professor at the University of Maryland, about the remarkable admission from the tight-lipped professional league.
And we wondered — was the admission in the hearing really that big of a deal?
"You ever read somebody's bio line on somebody's twitter account that says, 'These tweets are not reflective of my employer?'" Blackistone joked with host Tom Ashbrook. "The NFL today came out with a statement trying to distance themselves and Jeff Miller from the comments that he actually made."
The backtracking isn't new for the league, Blackistone noted. "The NFL has done a marvelous job ever since we started talking about concussions in saying their game doesn't really have much to do with it," he said.
As the debate — and public anger — around football injuries grows, Blackistone acknowledged the lack of meaningful change gives him pause.
"My enthusiasm for football has certainly turned into a cringe-worthy endeavor now," he told us. "There are times where I turn away from it because of the violence in the game."
So will Miller's acknowledgement change anything in America's favorite game? It's still too early to tell.
This segment aired on March 15, 2016.