The epidemic of head injuries in American football continues to play out in the legal system. Last month, two former players, one who had a long NFL career and another who attended two NFL training camps, sued both the league and the helmet manufacturer Riddell. According to a story in the Chicago Tribune, the ex-players allege that they suffered multiple concussions and subconcussive brain injuries during their playing careers.
The plaintiffs accuse the NFL of both negligence and fraudulent misrepresentation, alleging that the league did not inform players of the known risks of brain injuries, and that it told retired players that there was no connection between concussions and long-term brain damage. The plaintiffs also accuse Riddell of negligence for not warning players of their helmets’ ineffectiveness at preventing concussions.
Other Similar Lawsuits
The lawsuit marks the latest salvo in the ongoing controversy over the dangers of playing football and the alleged efforts of the NFL to hide those dangers from players and the public. In August, the NFL settled a class action lawsuit brought by 4,500 former players, agreeing to pay $765 million plus legal fees. However, the league admitted no wrongdoing with regard to covering up injury risks.
Recent scientific research, including analysis of the brains of deceased football players, has found a strong link between traumatic brain injuries and the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The families of many deceased players have donated the players’ brains to institutes conducting research on traumatic brain injuries in athletes. CTE was found in the vast majority of those brains.
In October, the Public Broadcasting Service aired the documentary League of Denial, which presents compelling evidence of both the dangers of football and the NFL’s efforts to conceal those dangers. The NFL has repeatedly stated that more research is needed before establishing any definitive link between football and CTE. However, the league has, until recently, attempted to skew the studies in its favor by appointing researchers who are friendly to its interests.
Advice for Athletes and Parents
The CTE risk is not limited to football players at the professional level. In fact, high school football has an extremely high incidence of traumatic head injuries. Researchers have even found CTE in the brains of at least one high school football players and one college football player. Prior to those discoveries, CTE was associated with much older people.
The NFL has finally put guidelines in place to deal with concussion symptoms displayed by players during games. However, at the high school and college levels, there is far less uniformity in the approach and less medical expertise on the sidelines. Many parents, in light of recent news reports, now refuse to let their children play football. For those who do play, it is imperative that athletes, coaches, referees, and parents take the utmost caution with possible concussions, and seek immediate medical assistance.
If you or a loved one has suffered brain damage resulting from athletic competition, you should contact an attorney immediately.