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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: ‘Absurd’ to think current data shows clear link between CTE, football

Cowboys’ Jerry Jones (right) spoke Tuesday about the relationship between football and CTE. (Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

BOCA RATON, Fla.—Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday he does not believe there is a firmly established link between football and degenerative brain disease.

“We want to continue to be safer and want to continue to support any type of research that would let us know what [the] consequences really are,” Jones said at the annual league meeting. “In no way should we be basically making assumptions with no more data than we’ve got about the consequences of a head injury.”

Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety policy, last week on Capitol Hill acknowledged a link between football and degenerative brain disorders such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

Miller was asked by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) about such a link, and replied that “the answer to that is certainly, yes.”

Jones said Tuesday he was not disagreeing with Miller’s comments.

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“The thing that I don’t want to get caught up in is semantics, the semantics of it,” Jones said. “We as a league, we have not in any way changed our desire to do everything we can to make it safe, make it safe as to head injury. We hope and will support any data that would give us more insight into any short- and long-term consequences. We would support that.”

But Jones said he is not convinced that medical and scientific research have established a link between football and brain disease.

“We don’t have that knowledge and background and scientifically, so there’s no way in the world to say you have a relationship relative to anything here,” Jones said. “There’s no research. There’s no data…. We’re not disagreeing. We’re just basically saying the same thing. We’re doing a lot more. It’s the kind of thing that you want to work… to prevent injury. A big part of this is prevention. But the other part of it is to basically understand that we don’t know or have any idea that there is a consequence as to any type of head injury in the future.

“That has to have a lot of research, just as the heart did 50 years ago. And certainly everybody that had heart issues 50 years ago didn’t live a normal life. Nature takes care of that. So no, I didn’t think at all that his statements altered anything…. It didn’t alter anything about where we are.”

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Jones was asked by a reporter to clarify whether there is, in his view, enough data to establish such a link.

“No, that’s absurd,” Jones said. “There’s no data that in any way creates a knowledge. There’s no way that you could have made a comment that there is an association and some type of assertion. In most things, you have to back it up by studies. And in this particular case, we all know how medicine is. Medicine is evolving. I grew up being told that aspirin was not good. I’m told that one a day is good for you…. I’m saying that changed over the years as we’ve had more research and knowledge.

“So we are very supportive of the research…. We have for years been involved in trying to make it safer, safer as it pertains to head injury. We have millions of people that have played this game, have millions of people that are at various ages right now that have no issues at all. None at all. So that’s where we are. That didn’t alter at all what we’re doing about it. We’re gonna do everything we can to understand it better and make it safer.”