Most of NFL Brain Trauma Research Donation to NIH to Go Unspent

The football league and the government agency part ways over how the money should be used.

Jul 28, 2017
Shawna Williams

man looks at brain scan images on computerU.S. AIR FORCE/SENIOR AIRMAN JULIANNE SHOWALTERFollowing the release of a study earlier this week that found chronic traumatic encephalopathy in 110 out of 111 former National Football League (NFL) players, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced it will allow a funding agreement with the league to lapse with more than half of the money unspent.

ESPN reports that nearly five years ago, the NFL made a $30 million donation to the NIH for research on the relationship between brain disease and playing football. But the relationship between the two has been fraught; according to a congressional report released last year, the “NFL did not carry out its commitment to respect the science and prioritize health and safety,” but instead “improperly attempted to influence the grant selection process at NIH.”

Read: Report: NFL Tried to Influence NIH-Supported Concussion Study

In particular, the NFL, which had veto power over the grants resulting from its donation, objected to a major award to a group led by Boston University neuroscientist Robert Stern, ESPN reports. That left NIH to try to cover much of the grant with other funds.

With the funding agreement about to expire on August 31, members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce wrote a letter to the NFL commissioner this week asking how the league intended to fulfill its commitment, the Washington Post reports. But a statement yesterday by the NIH makes it clear that $16 million of the original donation will not be spent before the original agreement expires.