March 17, 2016 6:17 AM EDT

When Harry Carson, a hall of fame linebacker for the New York Giants, heard that an NFL official had acknowledged, for the first time, a link between football and the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), he felt vindicated. Carson, who was diagnosed with postconcussion syndrome in 1990, has long argued that football contributed to his condition. “This is what players have been waiting for,” he says. “Just tell the truth.”

The truth hurts. A Boston University neuropathologist who examined the brains of 94 ex–NFL players found 90 showed signs of CTE. Asked at a congressional hearing on March 14 whether there’s a link between football and brain diseases like CTE, Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president of health and safety policy, could no longer punt the question away. “The answer to that question is certainly yes.” Admitting the obvious is easy. Now the NFL can tackle the real challenge: making football safer.

–SEAN GREGORY

This appears in the March 28, 2016 issue of TIME.

Write to Sean Gregory at sean.gregory@time.com.

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