Skip to content

A New CTE Doubter Emerges

2016 June 21

The Buffalo News is currently rolling out an impressive multi-part series on the NHL concussion litigation. (See the series here). In today’s piece titled, “No easy answers in concussion suit” the article quotes a “concussion specialist,” Dr. John Leddy, from the University of Buffalo. Notably, Leddy rattled off the “manufacture-of-doubt” script that has been repeatedly debunked,

[T]here is no scientifically established causal link between playing football in the past or hockey or repetitive head injuries and CTE right now. … the answers as to whether repetitive contact in sports causes CTE is not known right now.

Like an old broken record, this narrative should be thrown in the trash, especially in light of the insurmountable evidence defining precisely the opposite.

In fact, science identified this unequivocal link more than 80 years ago and stated it in forceful fashion,


Surprisingly, this statement appears in the NCAA’s sports medicine handbook, published in July 1933. The preface authored by three medical doctors from Wesleyan, Harvard and Princeton states,

It is hoped that doctors, coaches, and trainers who have charge of athletic squads will find the report helpful in the administration of their responsibility.

Unfortunately, as the history of concussion litigation has shown, this “responsibility” was not administered in a reasonable way. Instead, the stakeholders of sport spent years denying and covering up this link. Leddy’s comments are just more of the same. They are not only irresponsible but they also fly in the face of well-established principles of public health.

As Professor Goldberg noted in his leading article published in the Journal of Legal Medicine, demanding the type of scientific certainty that Leddy apparently requires is often impossible and is precisely the strategy used by industry to create doubt:

industry and its consultants are well aware that their use of uncertainty exploits the very nature of science.

That is why, from a public health perspective, we must,

err[] on the side of caution in the face of epidemiologic uncertainty…[and thus] public health policy and practice with regard to mTBI and long-term brain injury ought not be pinned to the resolution of the causal relation.

That is to say, the responsible policy and practice requires doctors, “concussion specialists” and the stakeholders of sport to stop casting doubt and uncertainty on the link between repetitive brain trauma and CTE, and instead take affirmative action to warn, educate and reduce the risks of CTE.

While Leddy’s comments may be appropriate, at best, for an academic discussion among his colleagues, they certainly are not worthy of publication in the popular press.


A reader recently pointed out that Leddy’s clinic in Buffalo was awarded a $100,000 grant from the NFL Charities in 2012. It is no surprise, then, that he would make this kind of statement since it follows the NFL’s script.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.