NHL commissioner Gary Bettman responded to a U.S. Senator’s questions about hockey and its ties to concussions and CTE by saying studies into the brain disease are still in their “infancy” and no link between concussions and CTE can yet be drawn.
In a document filed in a United States District Court in Minneapolis, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has responded to questions about the connection between concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE, by saying no clear link can yet be drawn between the two.
The 24-page document from Bettman comes in response to questions submitted to him in June by Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. The questions ranged from asking Bettman about a potential link between CTE and hockey to inquiries about the league’s disciplinary process for players delivering headshots to other players.
Bettman responded by saying that, at this point, researchers at Boston University’s CTE Center “admit that the study of CTE remains in its ‘infancy’,” and that the “relationship between concussions and the asserted clinical symptoms of CTE remains unknown.”
Later in the letter to Blumenthal, Bettman wrote that “even where CTE is found, the consensus of medical experts is that there is insufficient science to link it to participation in professional sports or contact sports generally.” Bettman added that researchers at the CTE Center “could not (and still cannot) assert such a link” between multiple concussions and CTE.
The letter continued by outlining the formation of the NHL’s concussion program, its purpose and how the NHL went about educating players. Bettman writes that the league provided “subsequent warnings and educational materials” via written communication, notices in locker rooms, video presentations and in-person meetings.
Bettman’s response to Blumenthal became public Tuesday when it was filed as part of the concussion-related lawsuit that is currently underway in Minneapolis. More than two dozen former NHLers are part of the class-action lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges, in part, that the NHL failed to warn players of the short- and long-term effects of repeated concussions and head trauma. It also states the league didn’t properly care for players after head injuries and “promoted and glorified unreasonable and unnecessary violence leading to head trauma.” Bettman wrote in his response to Blumenthal that the concussion lawsuit “has no merit whatsoever.”
Bettman said that the current research being done into CTE and the impact of concussions is “very important,” but added it’s unfair for the NHL to be criticized “when we have followed the medical consensus of experts examining the science.”
“The statements that I have made concerning CTE (which actually have only been responses to direct media questions) merely track this medical consensus,” Bettman wrote. “If that consensus changes, so, too, will my answers.”
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.