The risk of traumatic brain injury exists in many physical sports, but the danger is perhaps most evident in football. The game of football is built around contact. While other activities involve incidental contact, football incorporates hard hits, knocks, and collisions as an integral part of the game. Each Chicago brain injury attorney at our firm knows that is why it remains particularly important for players, parents, coaches, trainers, school administrators, referees, and others to do everything in their power to keep players safe on the gridiron.
While the focus of most sports brain injury prevention efforts is on younger players-often middle school and high school athletes-it is professionals who often face the most prolonged problems. As we’ve often mentioned, one of the main dangers of these injuries is that head trauma, like a concussion, goes undiagnosed and untreated. Without proper rest, the injury never fully heals. The more contact that is experienced the greater the injury. Professionals spend countless hours on the field during games and in practice taking tough hit after tough hit. Most players have been involved in the game since they were very young. Therefore, even professionals who are only twenty five years old may have already had twenty years of nonstop hard knocks on the head. Even when the injuries do not result in cataclysmic, deadly injuries, the overall harm caused by those years of prolonged contact can affect the players for the rest of their lives.
This idea is what lies at the heart of recent brain injury lawsuits filed by former players of the National Football League. Tony Dorsett, a former running back and member of the NFL Hall of Fame is one of the main voices leading the charge to raise awareness of player safety. Dorsett explains that head injuries during his eleven years as a professional, from 19977 to 1988, have affected him since. In the lawsuit that Dorsett filed with at least 300 other former players, he alleges that much more should have been done to protect players from long-term injury and make them aware of the potential dangers. Because of the lack of basic safeguarding, the lawsuit claims, many former players face decades of mental and physical problems after they retire.
Boston News published an extended story on the issue. The article notes that documents filed which initiated that brain injury lawsuit essentially claim that the NFL culture (run by owners and the commissioner’s office) was indifferent about the long-term effects on the athletes. Dorsett explained that he expects his future to be faced with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and similar brain conditions as a result of the repeated knocks that he took as a player. Instead of providing support to prevent long-term injury, Dorsett explains that he was actually encouraged to keep playing even when he was clearly hurt and needed recuperation.
In a nod to the growing importance of the issue, during this weekend’s Super Bowl, a one-minute ad aired which highlighted rule changes that have made the sport safer over the years. However, those changes alone are likely insufficient to avoid all liability if involved parties were negligent in the past with regard to player health.
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