ESPN reported that a major study conducted on the relationship between American football and brain disease will continue without a $30 million research grant from the NFL.
A league grant of $16 million over seven years was given to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2012 to finance the concussion research project, the NFL saying it had no control over how the funds were spent.
But ESPN, citing unnamed sources, reported the league backed out of the having its money finance the study when the NIH awarded the project to a group led by a prominent Boston University researcher Robert Stern, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery who has been outspoken against the league. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy replied on Twitter, saying, "ESPN story is not accurate. NFL did not pull any funding. NIH makes its own decisions."
The college announced the concussion research program Tuesday saying only that the NIH was funding the project, which aims to diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in living patients.
Posthumous studies of the brain in former NFL players, including prominent suicide victims Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, showed each was impacted by CTE. It was found in 87 former NFL players over the past decade.
Stern has criticized NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, saying he inherited a concussion cover-up when he took over from Paul Tagliabue. When the league made a concussion settlement, it was Stern who sent a 61-page letter of opposition, saying the payout amount was inadequate to compensate all deserving players, including many of the most severely injured.
Goodell last month told CBS, among the US television networks who combine to pay $39.6 billion for NFL broadcast rights through 2021, that: "We want facts. The facts will help us deliver better solutions. And that's why we're advancing medical research. That's why we're funding directly to Boston University on some of this research." The issue rises three days before the US debut of "Concussion", a Will Smith film in which he stars as a doctor who discovers the first case of brain damage in a former NFL player in 2005.