An NFL executive's acknowledgment Monday that football-related head trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy are linked "directly contradicts" the league's position in long-running concussion litigation, an attorney for retired players wrote in a letter to a federal appeals court.
In a two-page letter to the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, Steven Molo, representing a handful of players appealing the settlement to the litigation, noted NFL health and safety executive Jeff Miller's comments before a congressional committee.
Responding to a question, Miller said that since research by Boston-based neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee found CTE in dozens of retired NFL players, there is "certainly" a connection between football and the devastating neurodegenerative disease.
"The NFL's comments further signal the NFL's acceptance of Dr. McKee's conclusions regarding CTE — a stark turn from its position before the district court, which relied on the NFL's experts to dismiss the significance of the same research," Molo wrote.
A federal judge approved the settlement in April, but it is on hold until the appeal is resolved. The deal compensates some retired players for a variety of conditions including Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The compensation is determined on a sliding scale that factors in the player's number of seasons in the NFL and age when diagnosed.
But CTE is a major point of contention in the appeal.
The families of players who received a postmortem diagnosis of CTE before the deal's approval last April could be eligible for up to $4 million under terms of the settlement. There is no direct compensation for cases of CTE after that deadline — and players and their families who participate in the deal are barred from suing the league over the disease in the future.
The omission is "inexcusable," Molo wrote in the letter.
"The NFL's testimony also directly contradicts its position in the case," the letter said. "For example, the NFL argued that 'researchers have not reliably determined which events make a person more likely to develop CTE.' And it stated that 'speculation that repeated concussion or subconcussive impacts cause CTE remains unproven.'"
Two attorneys involved in the litigation against the NFL said Monday that they don't expect Miller's comments to impact the appeal or terms of the settlement.
On Tuesday, George Cochran, the attorney for Curtis Anderson, another retired player appealing the settlement, filed a letter with the court asking that players diagnosed with CTE in the future not be bound by terms of the deal.