The NFL will not be funding a brain study that ESPN called the most ambitious yet
in examining the relationship between head trauma and a degenerative brain disease, according to the sports network.
The seven-year, $16 million study was originally to be funded from a $30 million research grant given to the National Institutes of Health by the professional football league back in 2012, according to ESPN.
But Boston University announced Tuesday morning that the study was being paid for by the NIH, not the NFL. Sources told ESPN that the league did not want to be involved in the project because the research is to be led by Dr. Robert Stern, a university researcher who has been critical of the league in the past.
But the sports league is refuting those reports.
Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, said the NIH "makes its own funding decisions" and brushed off the characterization that the league pulled out of the study, according to ESPN.
The Foundation of the NIH, which administered the NFL grant
, backed the football league's story in its own statement, saying that it was the agency's decision not to include the NFL money.
"The NFL funding commitment to [Sports and Health Research Program] remains intact," the foundation's statement said. "NFL was willing to contribute to the Boston University CTE study headed by Dr. Stern."
"NIH made the decision to fund this study in its entirety and to issue a Request for Applications early next year to support an additional study on CTE using funds from SHRP, which will double the support for research in this area," the statement continued.
Sources told ESPN's "Outside the Line," though, that the NFL raised objections after Stern and Boston University passed a "scientific merit review" and received approval from an NIH advisory council to go ahead with the study.
While the NFL's grant to the NIH is unrestricted, the league retains veto power over the projects it funds, according to ESPN. McCarthy, though, told The New York Times that the league
has no "veto power" over its grant.
The project will seek to find a way to study the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE — which can be caused by repeated brain trauma or concussions — on former NFL or college football players who are still alive. Up until now, research has only been done on the donated brains of people who have died, according to The Times.
"Diagnosis during life — that's it," Stern, a professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and anatomy and neurobiology at Boston University's School of Medicine, said in BU Today
. "We will be able to truly study issues of incidence and prevalence, examine risk factors, and develop methods to treat and prevent the disease."
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