Commissioner refuses to admit link between football and CTE

CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge refused to admit a link between football and degenerative brain disease in his state of the league address Friday in Toronto.

"Last I heard, it's still a subject of debate in the medical and scientific community," Orridge told reporters. "The league's position is that there is no conclusive evidence at this point. And as I said, we continue to work with them and monitor the progress that they're making in terms of getting a greater understanding of whether or not there is a linkage."

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James Murray ? @jmurcbc
cfl commish orridge says he respects former players - but won't comment on concussion litigation - no clear link with cte #GreyCup2016
6:09 AM - 25 Nov 2016
1 1 Retweet 1 1 like
The CFL is facing a $200-million class action lawsuit filed in Ontario Superior Court in May by former players Korey Banks and Eric Allen. Robyn Wishart is representing the roughly 200 participants.

The suit alleges the league, former commissioner Mark Cohon, a Toronto doctor and clinic withheld information about how repeated concussions can lead to long-term cognitive disorders. None of the allegations has been proven in court.

"I can't comment on any pending litigation, you know, otherwise I would compromise the legal process in this country, and we're not going to do that," Orridge said.

In contrast, the National Football League admitted to a link between the sport and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in March. CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain.

"A lot of the players [were] hoping CFL would come forward like the NFL and acknowledge the link. But we know what's really going on and that's why there's a lawsuit," Wishart told CBC News Network.

"I think Canadians are becoming aware of the risks associated with repetitive brain trauma. These players stepping forward have created a discussion for others not to be afraid if they have problems."

Research shows link to disease

Dr. Carmela Tartaglia, a neurologist and clinician investigator at University Health Network in Toronto, told CBC Sports that while the exact nature of the relationship is still being studied, there is a connection between repeated head trauma and diseases like CTE.

"Clearly not everybody who gets multiple concussions gets a neurodegenerative process, but there is a concern that when you look at the people that are suffering multiple concussions, there seems to be at least a signal that they're at increased risk," Tartaglia said.

Tartaglia, who is also works with the Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases and the Canadian Concussion Centre, is involved in a study with 100 former CFL players and has studied 20 of them so far. She feels Orridge's comment implies a lack of evidence for or against the link between concussions and CTE.

"I think there is accumulating evidence that there is a relationship, that multiple concussions can lead to neurodegenerative diseases, but some people seem protected against it, and not everyone is getting these diseases," Tartaglia said.

Bob McKeown, co-host of CBC's the fifth estate and a former Grey Cup winner with the Ottawa Rough Riders, recently spoke about his experiences with concussions and his plan to donate his brain to medical research.

"If there's one thing the CFL commissioner should be familiar with, it's that the medical science is clear about the link between football and degenerative brain disease," McKeown wrote last week. "Even the NFL now admits it and has agreed to that billion-dollar settlement.

"But for former CFL players suffering from dementia, there is little support from the league: no disability, no long-term care, apparently no attempt to identify victims and define the problem, not even recognition by the league that there is a problem."

Tartaglia called McKeown's decision to donate his brain "highly commendable."

"This is the only way we're going to move forward in this field. [We need to] study more cases and really understand what is the relationship," she said.

"We would like to stop it before it progresses, but we have to first of all be able to detect it, so the research is really trying to understand what is the relationship between multiple concussions and these diseases, and the first step is to figure out who has it and who doesn't."

Rugby players all over the world have just filed like the NFL and NHL…I think they have something in common with the players in the CFL…

Orridge should have just stated he won't comment until the litigation is over.
The problem is if/when the leagues admit this, they are opening themselves up for lawsuits, even though common knowledge of the seriousness of concussions only happened in the last 20 years.

My issue with the lawsuits or possible ones, there is assumption the injuries are from Pro ball.
Yet most athletes have played as kids in their sport, highschool age, junior/college age even minor pro, but the Major leagues are targeted because that is where the money is.

Looking back as a kid playing hockey, I probably sustained close to ten concussions by the time I was twelve, and that was in "non-contact" leagues.

"The league's position is that there is no conclusive evidence at this point."

Maybe Orridge should sit down and watch the 5th estate with Bob McKeown , Dunnigan, Fantuz, Gore,etc.

Wow, this speaks volumes. I have laid off on the Orridge hate, but actually can't believe he'd harp out that argument...when the NFL has already thrown in the towel and admitted there is a link, after conducting their own research for decades to try and disprove all the signs that pointed to concussions being dangerous as hell, I have no idea why he would say such a dumb statement which reflects on the league as a whole, not just him..."no comment, it is an ongoing case and we don't want to jeopardize the integrity of the legal system " look like a bit of a goof but people would understand that political answer...he just sounds dumb and make the league sound dumb. Even if there is no DEFINITIVE link yet, you'd be a fool to think the two aren't closely related at this point.

Honest question, who decided he should be the commissioner? Is it the league owners who decide?

This is not accurate ... In Canada, in all provinces, except Saskatchewan, which has a specific WCB exemption for professional athletes, these injuries would fall under WCB (or whatever it is called in each jurisdiction). The players (employees) would be entitled to settlement through WCB and would not have the ability to sue. The league, as long as it does not directly employ the players (which it does during play offs) would be safe, unless they could prove the injury happened specifically during the playoffs (with no contributing causes) and even then, they would receive settlement through WCB.

There is an entire University level course that could be written on this subject, but the short version is, that any employee accepting employment in Canada, with a WCB registered employer, is unable to sue the Employer, BUT in exchange they will receive ```"no fault" insurance in the form of WCB (or whatever the call it in their jurisdiction). These injuries would be compensable under WCB. Saskatchewan is the only exception to that rule, as stated above.

Anyone in Canada can place a lawsuit against whomever, but that does not mean it will meet the legal requirements to stand in a court of law. At which point it would be dismissed. I know a lawsuit has been filed (by several players now), but unlike the USA, these law suits will eventually dismissed and the matter referred to WCB (much to the chagrin of some players).

One small part of my job is "Claims Management" for workplace injuries. I have taken several courses (university and other) over the years regarding work place injuries and Professional Sports injuries are covered under WCB (with the exemption listed above).


Because the NFL settled their lawsuit and the CFL and NHL have not. It was denial by the NFL until the settlement

So where could Bill C- 45 fit into this?

Well, with 22 million a team on the line to settle the thing, I'm thinking his response was about as perfect as you can get.

The thing is, There is no big secret here, both the players and the League know that Concussions and CTE are a hazard, yet only one side is denying it.
We know it, the players know it and the League knows it.
The big problem is with non-guaranteed contracts, If an average player gets a concussion and reports it and wants to sit out, He could be handed a Bus ticket out of town, Only the Stars and quality players would get some time to recover.
The CFLPA has no power and the League stomps on them every new contract.
Most players in the League now are under 27 years old and it has been known as a severe hazard for over 10 years now.
The Players are all well aware of the long term consequences of the sport they are employed in.
The League also is fully aware, yet are fully in denial. Orridge’s answer to it was the worst possible answer he could give!
It really sounds like the Tobacco Companies response from 40 years ago.

Here is a story
Ya,ya it is Sportsnet, but, it is true!

[url=] ... community/[/url]

Good question Grover ...

Sorry for the long post. It's a very large subject.

Bill C-45 (which is now Criminal Code 217.1) states "217.1 Every one who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task."

Other Criminal Code we need to know for the subject;

"[i]Criminal negligence

219 (1) Every one is criminally negligent who (a) in doing anything, or (b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.

Definition of duty

(2) For the purposes of this section, duty means a duty imposed by law.

Causing death by criminal negligence

220 Every person who by criminal negligence causes death to another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable (a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and (b) in any other case, to imprisonment for life.

Causing bodily harm by criminal negligence

221 Every one who by criminal negligence causes bodily harm to another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.[/i]"

So what the heck does that mean ... Basically, If you have the authority to direct work or discipline workers (lead hands, trainer, journeymen, foremen, etc) you are an employer under the criminal code of Canada. If you direct a worker to do something unsafe (or the case could be made for "knowingly allowing them to do something unsafe"), then you can be found criminally liable under this law.

This would probably refer more to the coaching staff and not as much to the league itself, as they do not direct the workers in how to complete their task. The league would have to show it was providing the "best" equipment to protect the players, as the league dictates the uniforms and (I believe) protective gear requirements to the teams/players.

In the event of an injury, there would have to be an investigation into how the employee got injured and if it were shown that the league, team, owners and/or coaches had prior knowledge that "x" protective equipment was better suited for their players and either hid the fact or denied them access to that equipment, then they could potentially be found negligent (this investigation is usually completed by OH&S, Work safe or whatever each jurisdiction refers to their WCB investigators as). Upon finding potential evidence of negligence, then the case would be handed off to the Municipal (local police), Provincial (provincial police) or Federal Enforcement body (RCMP) for the region and a Criminal investigation would begin. If sufficient evidence was found for charges, then the Crown would pursue charges against the coach(s), Team, League, and/or Owners.

The charges would be something like Criminal Negligence causing bodily harm (Section 221). Unfortunately, this does not change the fact that (except in Saskatchewan as stated in the previous post) workplace injuries are covered under WCB and by accepting employment, the worker gives up the right to sue their employer in the event of an injury (called "the great compromise" ... google it ... I really am trying to keep this short)

In my opinion, you would have a hard time making that case in court, as Football is a contact sport and as long as the league did "any" research into newer equipment and/or rules to prevent ______ injuries and showed continual improvement in the equipment and/or rules being used by their players, it would be hard to prove negligence (remember that the CFLPA also has a hand in this, so their executives or representative could potentially get charged too, as they specifically are there to represent and protect the players).

In every workplace or trade there is "acceptable", "normal" or a better term is "usual" risk ie: a welder may get burned, an electrician may get shocked, a carpenter will probably hit their hand with a hammer. Where the responsibility lies with the employer is to mitigate the risk as much as is "reasonably practicable". Where they fail to do so ... they could become liable.

There are additional factors which could "muddy the waters" such as Industry best practice, Medical advancements (at the time we did not know about concussions and their link to _______ ), advancement in turf, etc ... In my opinion, it would be a nightmare to try and prove negligence under 217.1

After writing all that it just occurred to me that there is another group that could potentially be held liable and that is the Refs. If the league institutes a rule to protect the employees (ie: head shots are a game misconduct) and the refs were proven to not evenly enforce that rule, then they could possibly be found negligent as they did not "discipline" those who broke a "safety rule" to prevent injury to an employee ... Dangit now I got a whole 'nother chapter to write! :oops:


Told ya this was an entire university course! :wink:

Well, for Level One evidence according to systematic reviews as the highest, best, level of evidence apart from a totally unbiased clinical practice guideline, which don't exist BTW as many see it, this is in the peer reviewed literature.

  1. PLoS One. 2015 Feb 11;10(2):e0117338. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117338.
    eCollection 2015.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in contact sports: a systematic review of all
reported pathological cases.

Maroon JC(1), Winkelman R(1), Bost J(1), Amos A(1), Mathyssek C(1), Miele V(1).

Author information:
(1)Department of Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative disease associated
with head trauma. Although initially believed to affect only boxers, the at-risk
population has expanded to encompass a much wider demographic, including American
football players, hockey players, wrestlers, and military veterans. This
expansion has garnered considerable media attention and public concern for the
potential neurodegenerative effects of head trauma. The main aim of this
systematic review is to give a complete overview of the common findings and risk
factors for CTE as well as the status quo regarding the incidence and prevalence
of CTE. This systematic review was performed using PubMed and MEDLINE and
includes all neuropathologically confirmed cases of CTE in the medical literature
to date, from the first published case in 1954 to August 1, 2013 (n = 153). The
demographics, including the primary source of mTBI (mild Traumatic Brain Injury),
age and cause of death, ApoE genotype, and history of substance abuse, when
listed, were obtained from each case report. The demographics of American
football players found to have CTE are also presented separately in order to
highlight the most prevalent group of CTE cases reported in recent years. These
153 case reports of CTE represent the largest collection to date. We found that a
history of mTBI was the only risk factor consistently associated with CTE. In
addition, we found no relationships between CTE and age of death or abnormal ApoE
allele. Suicide and the presence of premorbid dementia was not strongly
associated with CTE. We conclude that the incidence of CTE remains unknown due to
the lack of large, longitudinal studies. Furthermore, the neuropathological and
clinical findings related to CTE overlap with many common neurodegenerative
diseases. Our review reveals significant limitations of the current CTE case
reporting and questions the widespread existence of CTE in contact sports.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117338
PMCID: PMC4324991
PMID: 25671598 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

I hope the CBC does a story about CTE in NHL players just before the last game of the Stanley Cup finals. Somehow I don’t think this will happen!!!

Do the story by all means but concentrate on the evidence. not just, although important, a couple individual type touchy feely stories.

Well not surprisingly the CFLPA wasn't to thrilled with Orridge's stance on the effects of concussions on its members. I gotta agree with the majority and say that this Commissioner has got to go before he inflicts anymore damage on this league and further erodes the brand and product that has been on a steady downward spiral ever since he took office.

here's the article..... ... on-stance/

Yes 100% get that, but it was pretty much seen as the last straw in a way. The NFL denied it so vehemently for so long, when they lost I feel like it ended a large amount of debate in the football world whether this is a real issue or not, or whether the two are linked.

Like I said, he should of just sidestepped the question completely…to me, a person who has done a ridiculous amount of research on concussions and quit playing the game because of them, a statement like this makes Orridge sound like a complete fool. I know that is just my view and I have some bias, but football is not going to survive if the people running the leagues are still going to deny there may be a serious issue with concussions and CTE because there is no definitive link. The CFL needs to embrace this cruel reality and be involved in how the game transforms…I know this lawsuit muddys the water and puts the league in a bad place, but guess it just sucks that we live in a world where an intelligent guy like Orridge by all account resorts to flat out lying about something I don’t think he truly believe, but because of a lawsuit the league must take the opposite stance until proven guilty. Sort of like a murderer in jail who says “hell naw I didn’t shoot that guy, I wasn’t there I have no idea what happened” … you’re pretty damn sure he did it, and all evidence points towards it, but because he has yet to face his trial, he needs to lie to save his ass and we need to give him the benefit of the doubt until hes proven guilty. Common sense is a lost art form nowadays.

Just very disappointing to hear Orridge say this about an issue that could very well be the beginning of the end of football as we know it, it already has changed the game ten fold in a matter of 4-5 years.

Orridge said it, if you didn't want a story about it, tell the commissioner to learn how to deal with the media better.

If the CFL does good things, the press will write about it. If they do dumb things, the press will write about it. Unfortunately the last two years, there has been a lot more dumb things to talk about than good...that is on the league, not the media.

Again talk about the evidence in individual cases. Don't you guys understand that concept? :roll:

Fulltext of the peer reviewed paper I indicated earler:

"Thus far CTE research has been limited to selective case reports. There are no published systematic studies incorporating both sport and non-sport related head trauma populations. Based on this lack of data, it is currently impossible to determine the incidence of new cases occurring within contact sport. Additionally, overall prevalence of CTE amongst all cases of head trauma cannot be determined at this time. Finally, due to the fragmented data collected in case reports, no conclusions can be drawn about potential risk factors for developing CTE in contact sports [4]. To date, all pathologically confirmed CTE cases have had a history of head trauma; however, the reported degree of severity, frequency of blows to the head, and documentation of prior concussion is highly variable [5]."

The gist I get when I read your argument, then read the majority of the report ... it's almost like saying no cigarettes don't definitively cause cancer because my grandma and grandpa smoked all their lives and never got it, meanwhile a whole bunch of other people have died and it can likely be directly linked to their smoking habit. May be a bad example, but just because all cases are different and there is a small sample size for american football players, doesn't mean I will ignore the fact that there seems to be a pretty common sense link between head trauma and CTE, and when you play football, head trauma can certainly happen.

That last line is the telling one, what they have confirmed is that in all cases their was some sort of history of head trauma.

Do you doubt that in 15-20 years time they will come to the conclusion that there is a definite link between contact sports and CTE? Honest question, I get the argument, there is a small sample size that varies but it's not like CTE and boxing hasn't been linked for how long now? 1920s? It's actually shocking the NFL was able to suppress this for so long in my opinion, and if it weren't for there efforts to stall any real research into the matter for a couple decades, we likely would be sitting on a lot more information about football players and CTE right now. I know you want to talk on an individual basis, but whether you like it or not, this is a massive issue across the board for football right now, and simply waiting and seeing until more "definitive" evidence comes out or more studies are done would be irresponsible because all indications point to that playing football can certainly lead to CTE if you are unfortunate. Not everybody will get it, but it's definitely a risk.

"no conclusions can be drawn about potential risk factors for developing CTE in contact sports"

That is the statement that makes me mad, yes no clear conclusion, it's not an inaccurate statement, but we can take a pretty good guess that the answer is yes.