Former NFL Running Back Merril Hoge Talks About CTE Research

Dec 7, 2018, 7:25 PM | Updated: 7:25 pm


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Merril Hoge retired from an eight-year NFL career as a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Bears because he experienced complications from head injuries.

The 22-year ESPN analyst has set out to spread his side of the CTE concussion debate that surrounds football in a new book, Brainwashed: The Bad Science Behind CTE and the Plot to Destroy Football.

CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a condition of brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas.

Why take on CTE research?

He said being a concerned parent who played a lot of football is what sparked his journey to publish this book during an interview with Scott Mitchell on the Helmets Off podcast.

He called the current CTE research “science fiction,” and claimed there is no scientific evidence that concussion causes or is linked to CTE. That is the focus of the book he wrote with contributions from Peter Cummings, MD, a board certified forensic neuropathologist.

Listen to the audio:

Cummings penned the popular and controversial Yahoo Sports op-ed titled, “I am a brain scientist and I let my son play football” last year. In the op-ed he defended his decision to let his 11-year-old son play football and described his journey to that decision.

Hoge credited Cummings with helping him break down and understand the science into something he could more easily explain to parents to families and write in his book.

Hoge’s Own Concussions

During the interview Mitchell asked Hoge if he was ever concerned about long term effects from his own brain injury.

“No, not one bit am I concerned about it,” Hoge answered.

After his retirement, Hoge sued a team doctor of the Chicago Bears for allegedly mishandling his care and failing to warn him of the severity of his concussions.

He said he believed that concerned parents should put their focus elsewhere. His suggestion? Eliminate sugar and encourage your kids to be more active.

Current CTE Research

Mitchell asked about the study that made waves last year in which scientists concluded 110 out of 111 brains of former NFL Football players had CTE.

Hoge called the study, “more flawed than you could possibly imagine.”

His critique? The study was too small in scope.

“There’s 27,000 former NFL players,” he said. “You have to actually look at every brain to get any sense or direction of that impact.”

Hoge described the moment his son, BYU quarterback Beau Hoge, decided he wanted to start playing football.

“The first thing I was excited about was, ‘I’m going to create a better, safer environment for him to play in,’” he said.

Thoughts for Parents

He told Mitchell about the head trauma protocol program he started that became part of the youth football program he is involved with.

Hoge said he told his youth team on their first day of practice, “Football is a tough game for tough people, but it’s also a smart game for intelligent people.”

He made sure they understood that if they got hurt, they would address it and not just pretend they were okay. He told Mitchell that his teams don’t tackle during practice.

Hoge said he wants parents who are concerned about their kids playing football because of concussion and CTE to consider that a concussion can happen anywhere during any activity, like slipping in the shower (where his son got his first concussion) or jumping on a trampoline.

“This is best environment in the history of our sport to ever play it…first of the all equipment we have today, our equipment was paper mache compared to what they have today, protocol, we had no protocol for 90 years.”

Listen to the audio:

Watch the entire interview:

Mitchell gave some additional thoughts about the book and CTE research on KSL’s Unrivaled with co-host Alex Kirry. Both of them are parents of children who play football.

Listen to the discussion here:

Helmets Off

coach- fassel...

Scott Mitchell, KSL Sports

Mitchell: I Am Forever Grateful For Coach Fassel’s Wisdom, Timing

How did BYU’s 1986 top football recruit, a Latter-Day Saint quarterback from Utah County, not go to BYU? I’ll tell you how, Coach Fassel. 

3 years ago

Cam Rising and Jake Bentley - Utah Utes...

Scott Mitchell, KSL Sports

Utah Quarterback Watch: 2020 Season Doesn’t Really Count, Use It To Develop Players

Regardless of who the starting quarterback for Utah Football is this fall, I would treat this season as glorified spring football practice, if I were coaching.

4 years ago

Utah QB Rising...

Scott Mitchell, KSL Sports

Utah QB Watch: Whoever Starts Must Have A Simple Playbook

If Utah is serious about competing for a Pac-12 championship, it would be wise for them to have already internally named a starting quarterback.

4 years ago

Utah QB Battle...

Scott Mitchell, KSL Sports

Utah QB Battle: Utes Must Make Decision On Starter ASAP

Rumor on the street has it that the Utah Football staff will make a decision by this weekend to narrow its choice of quarterbacks down to two and there is a possibility, wait for it ... that a regular-season starter is named.

4 years ago

utah utes quarterback...

Scott Mitchell, KSL Sports

Utah Utes Quarterback Watch: A Good Problem To Have

Follow along with former University of Utah quarterback Scott Mitchell as he analyzes the quarterback battle for the Utah Utes.

4 years ago

Zach Wilson - BYU...

Madisan Hinkhouse, KSL Sports

Former Utah QB: Zach Wilson Deserves To Be In Heisman Conversation & How He Can Stay There

Wilson is receiving national attention so far this season. That's one thing he will need to be considered for the Heisman.

4 years ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Give-A-Thon

The KSL Sports Zone, KSL 5 TV, FM100.3, 103.5 The Arrow, and KSL NewsRadio have teamed up to raise money for the kids being served by Primary Children’s Care!


KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.


KSL Sports

Jazz Notes Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the Jazz Notes newsletter. Get insider analysis, game recaps and opportunities to win tickets!

Follow @kslsports...

The Road Home Mediathon 2023

The KSL Sports Zone and KSLSports.com are proud to support the all-day Mediathon 2023 at the Road Home, an annual tradition to raise money and other essential items for the Road Home, a Homeless Shelter.

3 kids wearing real salt lake jerseys smiling...

Real Salt Lake

6 Reasons You Need to Experience a RSL Matchday

RSL Games are a great way to spend time with your family with fun activities, good food, and traditions you can only experience at the field.

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.

Former NFL Running Back Merril Hoge Talks About CTE Research