March 16, 2016 3:27 pm
Updated: March 16, 2016 3:29 pm

NHL’s Bettman doesn’t want public debate over hockey and concussions

Toronto Maple Leafs centre Nazem Kadri (43) gets hit by Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Seth Jones (3) during second period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Wednesday, January 13, 2016.


BOCA RATON, Fla. – The NHL won’t comment on an NFL executive’s recent acknowledgement the brain disease CTE can be linked to football because it’s not “necessary or appropriate” and the two sports are different, hockey’s commissioner said Wednesday.

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When asked at the annual general managers meeting to comment on the NFL’s admission, Gary Bettman stuck to his position that the league isn’t going to get into a public debate on the issue.

READ MORE: Concussion triples suicide risk, Canadian doctors warn

“Well, first of all, I don’t feel that it’s either necessary or appropriate for me to comment on what the NFL either says or does,” Bettman said. “Secondly, I think it’s fairly clear that playing hockey isn’t the same as playing football.”

WATCH: NFL VP of health and safety acknowledges link between football and brain disease CTE

Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice-president for health and safety, made headlines Monday when he told a U.S. congressional committee’s roundtable discussion about concussions that brain research on former NFL players “certainly” shows a link between football and CTE.

NFL officials have long denied proof of a connection between playing in the NFL and the condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

READ MORE: Concussions ‘becoming an epidemic problem’ in Canadian kids

CTE is tied to repeated brain trauma and associated with symptoms such as memory loss, depression and progressive dementia.

Critics of the NFL’s proposed US$1-billion plan to settle concussion claims call Miller’s sudden acknowledgment of a football-CTE connection a game changer.

The settlement is being appealed by players concerned that it excludes future cases of CTE – what they consider “the signature disease of football.”

The NHL is also facing legal action over concussions.

More than 100 players have joined a class-action lawsuit against the league, alleging it had the resources to better prevent head trauma, failed to properly warn players of such risks and promoted violent play that led to their injuries.

READ MORE: Canadian docs pioneer new test to predict concussion recovery time in kids

The case, which was consolidated from several similar complaints in August 2014, has inched through the federal court system in Minnesota since then with no resolution expected soon.

The plaintiffs’ primary request is medical monitoring for the roughly 4,800 living former players, plus additional unspecified relief. There is no dollar figure on the lawsuit, but the NFL’s pending $1 billion concussion settlement with retired players could provide a benchmark.

Bettman, who was deposed for testimony last July, has said the lawsuit is “without merit.” The league’s first attempt to dismiss the claims was denied last year by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson. There is another pending motion for dismissal, based on an argument that the issues should be addressed through collectively bargained arbitration instead of court.

With files from The Associated Press

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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