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Family of Former Chicago Bear File Lawsuit Over Brain Injury After His Suicide

The Illinois brain injury attorneys at our firm have frequently written about the brain injury lawsuits that have been filed against the NFL by many former players. These suits contain a variety of accusations. However, at the root of them all are claims that the league did not do enough to prevent players from experiencing traumatic brain injuries that have affected their lives well beyond their playing career.

Now, according to the Chicago Tribune, the family of a famous Chicago Bear is taking the same steps. Dave Duerson was a Pro-Bowl safety for the team and a member of the storied squad that won the Super Bowl in 1985. Last year, Duerson shocked his friends and family by committing suicide in a Florida condo. As part of his suicide note, Duerson asked that his brain be donated to the NFL’s “Brain Project,” because he believed that the injuries he sustained during his career caused him many problems-potentially contributing to his mental condition and suicide.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Duerson’s family claims that the NFL knew for years that concussions were hurting players. However, the suit alleges that league officials deliberately concealed that information from players and coaches. In addition, the suit claims that officials erroneously told players that it was safe to return to the field the same day as suffering the concussion. The complaint states that “the NFL refused to acknowledge that brain damage in former NFL players is an epidemic that constitutes a national health crisis.”

In Duerson’s case, he suffered at least three documented concussions during his playing career. As a result of that trauma he suffered from a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE. Our brain injury lawyers know that CTE is a form of progressive brain damage that is often found in athletes, including other athletes that have committed suicide. In the past CTE was only associated with former boxers. However, as more focused research has been pointed on the problem, it has been discovered that many different athletes have the condition. CTE is only truly identifiable by examining the brain after death, and so many likely suffer from CTE currently without knowing it.

The family’s lawyer summarized the lessons that should be taken from this tragic situation, noting, “Current coaches, trainers, and players from the NFL down to the Pee Wee level, need to take heed-avoid concussions as best they can, recognize their significance and when in doubt, sit out.”

Besides the National Football League, this latest suit also names Riddell Inc. which is the makers of the helmets for most league players. Like the allegations against the NFL, the suit claims that Riddell officials knew that their helmets would not prevent concussions but failed to warn players of this. Observers explain that this latest traumatic brain injury suit is just the latest of at least twelve different lawsuits that have been filed by retired football players against the NFL. Thus far the NFL has denied all of the charges, and officials have echoed their commitment to player safety.

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