It was a simple question: Is there a link between playing football and CTE? And a simple response: "The answer to that question is certainly yes." But as Steve Fainaru of ESPN reports, it marks the first time a top NFL official has acknowledged a link between the game and the degenerative brain disease. The question came from congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois on Monday during a roundtable discussion on concussions convened by a House panel, and the answer came from Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety. Miller began to elaborate—"I think the broader point, and the one that your question gets to, is what that necessarily means, and where do we go from here with that information"—but Schakowsky recognized the moment and stopped him. "Is there a link?" she asked again. "Yes, sure," said Miller.
Schakowsky noted that just days before this year's Super Bowl, the neurosurgeon in charge of the NFL's own panel on brain injury refused to make the connection. Thus, Miller's response is a very big deal, the founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation tells the Washington Post. "This day was a long time coming, and I think it will have huge implications for the future of the game," says Chris Nowinski. Maybe most remarkable is that it might have been unintentional. Miller spoke just after Dr. Ann McKee of Boston University, whose work uncovered CTE in the brains of 90 of 94 former players, asserted during the discussion that the link was unmistakable. She "provided such strong evidence that, I think, Miller got caught up in it," says Nowinski, who is an unpaid adviser to the NFL Players Association. "And, unfortunately, the truth came out of his mouth.” (Read more CTE stories.)