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The NFL has been combatting growing chatter across the league that players are subjecting themselves to long-term damage by way of concussions and the appearance of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). On Monday, a top NFL official admitted to a possible link between concussions and the brain condition but stopped short of confirming the link, ESPN reports.

The league’s senior vice president for health and safety, Jeff Miller, spoke during a U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy & Commerce roundtable discussion on concussions on Monday (Mar. 14). Miller made the admittance after Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois asked if such a link between the injuries players suffered and the rise of CTE cases among those injured.

ESPN reports:

“The answer to that question is certainly yes,” Miller said.

He said he based his assessment on the work of Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuropathologist who has diagnosed CTE in the brains of 176 people, including those of 90 of 94 former NFL players. The disease can only be diagnosed after death.

“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,” Miller said, noting that little is known about the prevalence of the disease or the risk of incurring it.

ESPN adds that back in 2009, a league spokesperson told the New York Times that that it was possible that concussions could “lead to long-term problems” but there was never a hard confirmation of the connection from league commissioner Roger Goodell or other officials.

Medical experts on either side of the debate seem to agree that there isn’t anything conclusive but do acknowledge that more research has to be done and that the rise of CTE cases cannot simply be ignored, especially in younger players.

CTE currently can only be diagnosed in the brains of the deceased.

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