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Former Wrestlers Sue Company Over Traumatic Brain Injuries

Several dozen well-known wrestlers that have worked for a well-known wrestling company have joined in a class-action suit against that company, according to the Chicago Tribune. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs incurred “long term neurological injuries” as a direct result of working for the company because the company allegedly “routinely failed to care” for them “in any medically competent or meaningful manner.” The lawsuit also alleges that the company “fraudulently misrepresented and concealed” the nature of injuries sustained in the course of employment. The lawsuit has the potential to become another high profile legal action dealing with professional athletes that have allegedly sustained long-term brain injuries, and further highlights the risks associated with repeated traumatic brain injuries.

Like other lawsuits filed by groups of professional athletes, this new lawsuit alleges that repeated traumatic brain injuries have resulted in the development of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (“CTE”). CTE is a progressive form of a degenerative brain disease that is found in people, mostly athletes, that have a history of recurring brain trauma including concussions and asymptomatic subconcussive blows to the head. This degeneration can cause memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, issues with impulse control, depression, aggression, and eventually progressive dementia. Symptoms can start in as little as a few months after the athletic involvement, or may not appear until decades later.

Legal Obstacles

Lawsuits over traumatic brain injuries related to athletic activity often face a legal hurdle that can be likened to the legal notion of assumption of risk. In other words, organizations being sued by former athletes for brain damage as a result of traumatic brain injury can defend against those lawsuits by proving that the athletes pursuing the lawsuit were aware of the danger of repeated head injuries and still chose to continue to play whichever respective sport is involved in the lawsuit. The potential success of such a defense has yet to be established, but it is an obstacle lawyers for the wrestling plaintiffs believe they can overcome in this particular lawsuit. Lawyers for wrestlers suing over traumatic brain injuries and subsequent effects of those injuries point out that, in wrestling, the circumstances surrounding the potential for traumatic brain injuries are different than in other sports. According to the article, the lawsuit states, “The wrestling moves that involve the occupational head trauma that causes CTE and associated disease from the accumulated effects of TBIs [traumatic brain injuries] are the result of wrestling moves and maneuvers that were performed ‘correctly’ by the Plaintiffs.” According to the article, the lawsuit goes on to explain, “…wrestling matches, unlike other contact sports, involve very specific moves that are scripted, controlled, directed, and choreographed … [by wrestling company executives].” The legal premise here is that since these moves are created, directed, and controlled by these executives, the company’s actions in creating and scripting these moves are directly responsible for the injuries that resulted from such moves. In other words, lawyers for the wrestlers are attempting to prove that traumatic brain injuries are more predictable in wrestling than other contact sports which play out without a specific script and, as such, involve head injuries that are less predictable than those in wrestling.

Whether or not a judge finds this argument convincing has yet to be seen. It may take some time to establish the strength of the Plaintiff’s case, especially when the article indicates that a federal judge has already found the Plaintiff’s legal team to have leveled other false allegations against the wrestling company. Regardless of how this lawsuit plays out in the immediate future or down the road, there is an extremely important takeaway from it having been filed. This lawsuit serves as a reminder of how serious traumatic brain injuries can be, especially when such injuries are not properly treated in a timely manner. Improper diagnosis of a traumatic brain injury can lead to severe complications which compound the potential negative effects of the injury itself. It is important to note that many times, side effects of these types of head injuries are not seen for decades after the injury occurred.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a traumatic brain injury, or such injury was misdiagnosed initially or repeatedly, it may be in your best interest to discuss the circumstances of the incident(s) surrounding the injury with a personal injury attorney that has experience in seeking compensation for traumatic brain injuries. Contact the legal team at Levin & Perconti to discuss the circumstances regarding a traumatic brain injury, and whether or not such injury may be eligible for compensation.

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