PETA accused the NFL on Thursday of performing "horrific" studies and experiments on animals in their quest to examine the implications of severe injuries sustained by its athletes.

In a Thursday press release, PETA claimed that the NFL has “quietly funded horrific and deadly sports-injury experiments on dogs, mice, rats, and other animals.” The release claims that NFL-funded studies purposely inflict serious injury, including spinal cord and brain damage, on test animals.

“These projects, many of which are ongoing, are crudely designed to recreate injuries on the football field,” PETA’s statement reads. “They have involved inflicting severe knee injuries on dogs, after which the animals are killed and have their legs cut off; repeatedly slamming heavy weights into rats' heads to create brain and spinal cord injuries and skull fractures; and cutting open the heads of mice and delivering crushing blows to cause traumatic brain injuries. Many animals have even died during the studies because of the severe injuries that they sustained.”

PETA also claimed to have obtained photographic evidence of one such experiment. The animal rights organization distributed a GIF in which a metal bar crushed a rat’s head in order to simulate a football-related head injury. The GIF can be viewed here. Be warned, the image is disturbing.

Thursday’s press release was distributed in response to the NFL’s recent settlement with former players who had suffered severe head injuries. The deal, reached on Aug. 29, will require the NFL to contribute $765 million to compensate retired players for their injuries, hospital bills, and legal expenses.

In the wake of the settlement, the league announced plans to devote $10 million to “research and education,” in order to better understand and prevent injury to its athletes. However, PETA notes that “continuing to bash in animals’ heads and cripple dogs won’t help prevent and treat injuries sustained by NFL players.”

PETA also asks concerned individuals to demand that the NFL desist from its “inhumane” studies. A form letter on PETA’s website claims that “studies have shown that brain-injury experiments on animals have repeatedly failed to help human patients.” The entire press release and letter can be read here.

[h/t Complex Sports]