CTE Is Serious, Despite Fedora's Comments

Concussion Legacy Foundation CEO Chris Nowinski weighed in on Larry Fedora's CTE comments, among other topics

Taz and the Moose
July 20, 2018 - 10:29 am
Larry Fedora

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Concussion Legacy Foundation CEO and former WWE wrestler Chris Nowinski dropped by CBS Sports Radio to respond to North Carolina head football coach Larry Fedora, who claimed Thursday that there is not enough evidence to link CTE and football. 

The science, however, says otherwise.

"Eventually he said the evidence is there, that repetitive history had caused CTE," Nowinski said on Taz & The Moose. "Then it became a game of semantics, of it's not quote-unquote football, but hits to the head can happen in lots of sports. What got everybody riled up was the idea of playing football as the victim in a space where actually football players are victim of a pretty terrible disease."

In light of these comments, many worry that Fedora is running a dangerous program with little concern for his players. 

"Oh, no," Nowinski refutes. "He does actually have a very good track record with inviting a very good research team at UNC to study on his players and to actually use those accelerometers to train when they have bad habits that are causing big head hits. He's been an innovator." 

Fedora also said that football has never been safer. 

"The NFL is dramatically safer," Nowinski said. "I really give that credit to the NFL Player's Association. But I think what the NFL has done shows how far we have to go to even get to a place where we're comfortable – and that's what the Concussion Legacy Foundation's really driving to the community."

Nowinski explained a bit about the Foundation and its work.

"At the beginning, we were really focused on the concussion issue," he said. "The concussion issue was a huge one back then because we never talked about it and we were putting people right back in. I would say over the last decade – through advocacy and through research – we've convinced everybody that concussions are serious, and now we take much better care of them. But along the way, actually the first move we made as an organization is that we partnered with Boston University and the VA to start a brain bank of athletes. At that time, two NFL players had their brains studied postmortem and both had had this disease, CTE, which we used to call 'Punch Drunk' because we thought it was only boxers."

It wasn't.

"I actually started calling families when football players passed away to ask for brain donations," Nowinski said. "Last week, we had our 600th brain donation over the last 11 years. We published the study last year in Journal of the American Medical Association, one of the most prestigious in the world, saying that out of the first 202 football brains we studied, 87 percent of them had CTE. It was almost all of the NFL players – all but one – 110 out of 111."