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September 1, 2017

NFL retakes control of brain research as touted alliance ends

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  • Science
  • Neuroscience

ESPN – Since announcing a $100 million commitment to concussion research last year, the NFL has funded just one study examining chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, the brain disease that has shaken pro football. But that study isn't focused on football players.

It's focused on jockeys.

The project, run out of a four-story brick building in northwest London, aims to find out why high concussion rates in horse racing don't translate into "deteriorating brain function in later life," a question that many scientists believe has little to do with football. The study is led by an Australian researcher who once described American coverage of CTE as "carry-on and hoo-hah" and a British doctor whose concussion presentations sometimes have included flippant jokes and video of tumbling jockeys set to slapstick music. At one presentation, the widow of a CTE victim, a former British soccer star, was so offended she stormed out of the room.

The jockey project is part of the NFL's latest effort to stake out a powerful role in research that holds the potential of its own undoing.

Last September, the NFL pledged $100 million, doubling down on its previous commitment as one of the largest funders of concussion research in the United States. The league and its advisers say the money will go toward the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of head injuries. But after years of donating to outside entities -- an approach that league officials said was designed to keep the research independent -- the NFL has taken the science in-house and under its control.

Read more at ESPN.

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