The NFL made a $ 30 million grant to fund studies on brain injuries in 2012.
Four members of Congress want answers about the NFL’s alleged attempt to replace a Boston University researcher who has been critical of the league from a brain-disease study.
The lawmakers sent a letter this week to commissioner Roger Goodell seeking documents and other information about why the NFL reportedly tried to bump BU’s Robert Stern from leading a $ 16 million, seven-year study to develop methods to diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy in living patients, ESPN reported.
“Efforts by outside entities to … exercise influence over the selection of NIH research applicants are troubling and we are committed to a full understanding of the sequence of events that led to this dispute,” the lawmakers wrote.
CTE, the brain-destroying disease linked to the suicides of football stars Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Andre Waters, can now only be diagnosed via autopsies.
The study was supposed to be funded through a $ 30 million, supposedly no-strings-attached donation the league gave the National Institutes of Health in 2012. ESPN said the league withheld funding after the NIH rejected researchers more sympathetic to the NFL.
The NIH said it decided to fund the study and will instead use money from its partnership with the NFL for additional CTE research next year. The NFL said the NIH, not the league, made the final decision on research funding.
The letter was signed by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) The lawmakers are members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The congressional inquiry comes at a particularly bad time for the NFL in its ongoing concussion crisis. The New York Times reported Thursday that the NFL excluded 100 reports of concussions in the data it cited when it questioned links between long-term brain damage and football. The Times also reported the NFL used Big Tobacco lawyers, lobbyists and consultants to assuage public fears about the dangers of football.