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May 24, 2016

Congressional Study Says NFL Tried to Steer Research Funds

A report released Monday by a Congressional committee asserts that the National Football League sought undue influence over the National Institutes of Health's use of what was billed as an unrestricted donation to study brain injuries, writes The New York Times. According to the review by Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the NFL tried to steer some of the $30 million it gave the federal agency in 2012 to a doctor with ties to the league.

The gift was widely seen at the time as a major step toward acknowledgment by the NFL that concussions and other head injuries had a long-term impact on players' health. However, NIH reportedly decided to use $16 million in taxpayer dollars for research by a Boston University neurologist who has been critical of the NFL after the league objected to funding the work.

The Congressional study says the NFL tried to persuade NIH to award the project to a researcher who served on the league's head, neck, and spine committee. The agency ultimately supported its own choice but opted to pay for the work. The report faults the nonprofit Foundation for the National Institutes of Health for not holding the NFL to its financial commitment. In a statement, the NFL rejected the accusations, saying its concerns about the research were reviewed "through the appropriate channels.”