North Carolina coach Fedora questions CTE link

North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora is under fire for questioning reported links between football and CTE at the ACC Kickoff on Wednesday.Photo Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

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Head coach Larry Fedora of North Carolina is under fire for doubting a link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy at Wednesday’s ACC Kickoff event.

Fedora said he believes some people are using the data in hopes of destroying the game.

“I’m not sure that anything is proven that football, itself, causes (CTE),” Fedora told reporters. “My understanding is that repeated blows to the head cause it, so I’m assuming that every sport we have, football included, could be a problem with that as long as you’ve got any kind of contact.

“That doesn’t diminish the fact that the game is still safer than it’s ever been because we continue to tweak the game to try to make it safer for our players.”

Fedora later backtracked slightly, adding that football is not alone in dealing with head injuries, and claiming the game is currently safer than ever before.

He also noted that participation rates in youth football have declined nationally, putting the game at risk.

“If you’re involved in the game of football, you have to worry about that,” Fedora said.

When pressed about whether or not he agrees that there is a correlation between football participation and CTE, Fedora said he believes some studies and not others.

Fedora said some people, without naming them, routinely use data on CTE to suggest the risk of playing football is too high.

Numerous organizations, including the NFL, have acknowledged there is a connection between concussions sustained while playing football and the development of CTE, which can result in brain abnormalities and depression.

The family of former Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski recently said his suicide probably was the result of CTE.

Fedora said he is not familiar with the NFL’s evaluation of a link between football and CTE, but said players should understand the risks and make their own decisions.

“Are there still injuries? Yeah, it’s a violent sport,” Fedora said. “You’ve got big, fast, strong guys running into each other. Something is going to give.

“But there are risks involved in the game, and everybody that plays the game understands those risks. It’s not like they’re going into it not knowing that something could happen. And so they have to — personally have to weigh those risks versus the rewards.”

Last season, North Carolina suffered through an injury-plagued season, with 37 players missing game time because of injuries and more than 20 sustaining season-ending injuries.

Fedora said he spent the offseason reshaping the Tar Heels’ strength and conditioning program as a result.