More Than 2,000 Former Players Sue NFL Over Head Trauma

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • A Who’s Who of former National Football League players – including Art Monk, Jim McMahon, Mark Rypien, Eric Dickerson, Bob Lilly, Rayfield Wright, Ed Budde, Curley Culp, Art Still, Jerry LaVias, John David Crow, Danny White, John Niland, Randy Hughes Jim Arneson, Darryl Talley, Samuel Davis, Andrew Rice, Pete Lammons, Scott Kellar, Donovan Greer Charles Frazier, Everette Pedescleaux and John Randle - are accusing the league of withholding information regarding the health implications of multiple concussions. The lawsuit, which represents 2,138 former players, also includes Riddell, Inc. (which makes football helmets) as a defendant.

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    The Houston Chronicle reported that lawyers have consolidated these players’ lawsuits into a single 86-page lawsuit which has been filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. Reporter David Barron reported that the master complaint “starts the clock ticking on what could be a lengthy legal battle that could impact perceptions of the league and alter the manner in which football is played and coached.” In a separate story, Barron reported that some of the former players are suffering from a neurological conditions and symptoms that are related to multiple head trauma.

    LeVias told the Chronicle, “If you got a hard hit, they would put that ammonia capsule in front of you and ask how many people you saw and if you said three, they would say, ‘Hit the one in the middle.’ You didn’t have a concussion until they put you on a stretcher and took you off the field.”

    ABC News reported that this lawsuit – which is the largest sports lawsuit ever – alleges “‘that the NFL exacerbated the health risk by promoting the game’s violence’ and ‘deliberately and fraudulently” misled players about the link between concussions and long-term brain injuries.” The plaintiffs are seeking that the NFL be held responsible for the care of players who develop dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and other neurological conditions.

    Of course, the NFL denies these claims. “Any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league's many actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions,” explains the league statement, according to ABC News.

    I thought the most interesting analogy was made in a commentary by Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi. “The player lawsuit against the NFL is starting to sound more and more like the multibillion-dollar government lawsuit against Big Tobacco, which found that the tobacco companies lied for decades about the risks of smoking,” he wrote. “Even though there was evidence that linked smoking to an array of long-term health issues, including lung cancer, tobacco companies hit those risks from smokers.”

    The focus on concussions also has reached some at the collegiate level. The Southeastern Conference appointed Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones to lead a working group to develop recommendations related to head trauma. This group will analyze available research, diagnosis and guidelines, and evaluate standards of practice. Two specialists in head trauma who are associated with medical schools affiliated with SEC schools will be part of the panel, as will two physicians who serve as team doctors at SEC schools and two athletic trainers. Currently, the SEC does not have a standardized concussion policy or universal guidelines for evaluating head injuries.

  • It’s about time that these leagues – whether professional or collegiate – took a player-friendly approach to head trauma. Unfortunately, it will come too late for many and will require a change of culture. “Does anybody really think in the big-money, high-pressure world of professional and college football that win-at-all-cost coaches would actually put player safety over team success?” Bianchi wrote. “Coaches will cheat, lie, spy and deny to win big football games. Do you really think, if given the choice, they're going to sit out their best players because of a headache?”

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    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    Avila, J. (2012). Former NFL players file lawsuit against league on concussions. ABC News.

    Barron, D. (2012). Lawsuit accuses league of hiding links to injuries. Houston Chronicle.

    Barron, D. (2012). Add LeVias, Crow, White to growing list of litigants. Houston Chronicle.

    Bianchi, M. (2012).  NFL looks a lot like Big Tobacco in concussion lawsuit. Orlando Sentinel.

    Covitz, R. (2012). Former NFL players team up for lawsuit. Kansas City Star.

    Sports Illustrated. (2012). SEC taking steps to learn more about concussions.

Published On: June 11, 2012