NFL faces giant lawsuit for allegedly hiding brain injury risks
The National Football League (NFL) is sitting in a giant hot seat after complaints filed against it by thousands of former players with head trauma and their families were consolidated in a Philadelphia courtroom Thursday – a measure that sets the league up for a potentially long and costly legal battle.
The players accuse the league of concealing information that connected football play with concussions and other traumatic brain injuries, which they allege in many cases led to permanent and debilitating brain disorders, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The master complaint also named Riddell, Inc., the company that manufactures football helmets for the NFL. Riddell already faces other lawsuits alleging it overstated the level of safety and protection its football helmets provide during play.
“The NFL, like the sport of boxing, was aware of the health risks associated with repetitive blows producing sub-concussive and concussive results and the fact that some members of the NFL player population were at significant risk of developing long-term brain damage and cognitive decline as a result,” the complaint alleges.
“Despite its knowledge and controlling role in governing player conduct on and off the field, the NFL turned a blind eye to the risk and failed to warn and/or impose safety regulations governing this well-recognized health and safety problem,” it states.
Kevin Turner, a former running back for the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles and one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, told the Associated Press that he isn’t out to destroy the NFL, only to make sure the league fulfills its obligations to create a safer sport.
“The NFL must open its eyes to the consequences of its actions,” Mr. Turner told the AP. “The NFL has the power not only to give former players the care they deserve, but also to ensure that future generations of football players do not suffer the way that many in my generation have.”
Mr. Turner was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2010. The disease, commonly called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, afflicts the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, gradually diminishing a person’s ability to voluntarily move muscles. The disease has been linked to “repetitive head trauma experienced in collision sports” by some medical studies. Mr. Turner told the AP the NFL left him in the dark about head injuries, leaving him to connect the dots himself over several years.
“For the longest time, about the first 10 years after I retired in January 2000, I thought I had just turned into a loser overnight,” he told the AP. “I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. It was a very scary proposition, until I found out there were a lot more guys just like me. I find they had been through some of the same struggles. I realized this is no longer a coincidence.”
Some families, such as those of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson and former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, who both committed suicide after suffering from worsening brain injuries for years, want the NFL to be more accountable to its players, starting with showing some concern for their safety and well being.
“I wish I could sit down with (NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell) and share with him the pain,” Mary Ann Easterling, whose husband Ray was already a plaintiff in the NFL lawsuit, told the AP. “I think the thing that was so discouraging was just the denial by the NFL.”
The AP reviewed all of the lawsuits filed so far and calculated that they involve 2,138 former players. The total number of plaintiffs, including family members and others, is 3,356.
- NFL faces another major lawsuit over concussion-related injuries and disorders
- NFL star’s suicide note requests his brain be studied for injury
- Helmets help protect the head, but also promote behavior that causes brain injury
- New studies strengthen link between brain injury and future dementia
- Researchers increasingly concerned over sports-related brain injuries