Congressional Committee Questions The N.H.L.’s Management of Brain Injuries
The National Hockey League has made several rule changes to better prevent concussions within the sport in recent years, but the House’s Committee on Energy and Commerce is still concerned about the league’s management of brain injuries.
As The New York Times reports, four members of the committee demanded more answers about the league’s management of concussion from N.H.L. Commissioner Gary Bettman in a letter sent last week.
In July, Bettman answered several questions from Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. Among his responses, Bettman denied the existence of a link between concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a chronic neurodegenerative disease associated with repeated head trauma.
Instead, Bettman blamed the media for supposedly fear-mongering about the long-term effects of brain injuries and said the N.H.L. uses a “more measured approach” to concussion management.
Now, four more members of Congress have signed a letter to Bettman saying “the N.H.L. must do its part to reduce the risk of head injuries and to make hockey, at all levels, a safer game.”
The letter contains seven pointed questions about the league’s concussion protocol, concussion statistics, the rationale for recent rule changes, and the league’s plans to make the game safer for players ranging from youth to pro levels.
The group specifically asks about the role of the fights that many fans love in hockey, pointing to emails among Bettman and other league officials in which the group privately acknowledged fighting could lead to concussions and long-term health problems.
“Despite this candid discussion in email of the dangers of fighting and the related incidence of head injuries, the N.H.L. continues to publicly deny a connection between head injuries and long-term complications such as C.T.E.,” the letter read.
The letter asked Bettman to respond by October 24.
Concussions are common in professional hockey and several N.H.L. players have retired due to brain trauma endured during their time in the league. At least six deceased professional N.H.L. players have been diagnosed with CTE and dozens of former players have filed a class-action lawsuit claiming the league failed to warn them about the long-term effects of head injuries.