The Associated Press reported this week on yet another class-action concussion lawsuit against a large, professional sports organization. This time it is the National Hockey League (NHL) that is under fire from former players who alleged that league action (and inaction) contributed to long-term player harm as a result of brain injuries sustained during their playing days.
Following in the footsteps of thousands of former NFL football players, at least ten former hockey professionals are part of this initial class action suit. The lawsuit includes the “class” of all NHL players who retired before February of this year and who suffered brain injuries.
As with the NFL concussion lawsuits, the specific allegations in the suit are myriad. For example, the injured players allege that league officials knew (or should have known) about the dangers of repeat mild head injuries which may affect players long after their playing days. Knowing the risk, the suit alleges that the league did little to nothing to actually change things and ensure concussions prevalence and severity were reduced.
In fact, according to the complaint, it was not until years after the scientific risks should have been well known that the NHL did anything to minimize in-game harm–making it a penalty to target a player’s head during the match in 2010. Further, the complaint claims that there are still rules today which suggest the league does not take the long-term player risks seriously. For example, body check and on-the-ice fistfights are still common and perhaps even encouraged, all creating a “culture of violence” that leads to more preventable head injuries.
The AP quotes a passage from the complaint that summarizes the player’s argument: ”The NHL’s active and purposeful concealment of the severe risks of brain injuries exposed players to unnecessary dangers they could have avoided had the NHL provided them with truthful and accurate information and taken appropriate action to prevent needless harm,”
The entire complaint can be viewed online.
Sports & Brain Injuries
Like the NFL cases, which was partially settled earlier this year for $765 million, many different arguments are likely to be made by hockey league officials in their defense. Responding to the claims already, some officials suggest that the league took steps to address the issue early on, beginning at least in 1997. The case will likely advance as both sides argue over whether the actions taken were enough and whether more should have been done to prevent injury to players or at least properly warn them of the long-term dangers.
Regardless of how this particular lawsuit plays out, as the science continues to show, there are very real and obvious head injury dangers in so many popular sports. While the lawsuits against professional leagues receive most of the attention, the risk exists at all levels, including amateur leagues and school sports. All coaches, officials, administrators, parents, and other involved parties should be aware of these risks and act reasonably to prevent harm.
For help with brain injury issues in Illinois, please consider getting in touch with our brain injury lawyers today.
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