Man, it was already going to be a rough week for #science, what with the Republican National Convention finally arriving, starring two dudes who believe variously that climate change is a Chinese scam, that evolution is for sissies, and that smoking will not kill you straight dead.
But before we even had a real chance to recover, National Hockey League Commissioner and Person of Questionable Ethics Gary Bettman bulldozed his way into your Twitter timeline by insisting that concussions are in no way related to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as C.T.E.
C.T.E. is caused by being hit in the head over and over and over — as often happens to professional athletes who play a sport like, say, hockey. But not to worry, said Bettman in a series of written answers to questions posed about the risks of C.T.E. in hockey. Those who fear that they, their teammates, their loved ones, or their sports heroes are treading a path that will eventually leave them well and truly gorked, and without any sort of institutional support, have simply fallen prey to fear-mongering media, an industry without better things to do.
“The science regarding C.T.E., including on the asserted ‘link’ to concussions that you reference, remains nascent, particularly with respect to what causes C.T.E. and whether it can be diagnosed by specific clinical symptoms,” Bettman wrote. “The relationship between concussions and the asserted clinical symptoms of CTE remains unknown.”
Which, fuck that. The science is not “nascent.” The science is real, powerful, and well-established. Bettman’s continued dismissal of it as a figment of the media’s imagination rather than the debilitating reality it is is not a stance with hypothetical consequences, but with real ones.
“This, sadly, is precisely the type of tragedy that can result when plaintiffs’ lawyers and their media consultants jump ahead of the medical community and assert, without reliable scientific support, that there is a causal link between concussions and C.T.E.,” Bettman continued. “Certainly, a more measured approach consistent with the medical community consensus would be a safer, more prudent course.”
A number of cases of C.T.E have been well-documented in athletes, especially in sports like football, boxing, and hockey. It can lead to depression, dementia — basically, a complete personality overhaul. It has driven athletes to suicide. In 2009, former NHL player Reggie Fleming became the first hockey player to be tested for and diagnosed with C.T.E. after his death. Celebrated enforcer Bob Probert was diagnosed with C.T.E. after his brain was analyzed following his death in 2010 at age 45.