The new professional football season is here, with new games, new players and new problems. However, one old problem continues to plague the controversial National Football League (NFL). According to recent reports, the widow of a former player is suing the league, along with several other defendants, for its alleged failure to adequately protect players from traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
The plaintiff’s husband spent about five years in the league, playing for the New Orleans Saints, as well as the San Diego Chargers. In 2013, he took his own life with a gunshot wound to his head, while in the presence of his wife and his children. At the time of his death, court documents allege that he suffered from the consequences of numerous head traumas and concussions. However, it was not until the autopsy that doctors formerly diagnosed him with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and other brain injuries.
What is CTE?
According to the National Institute of Health, CTE is a neurodegenerative disease. This means that it negatively affects the neurons of the brain, causing them to progressively decrease and even die. It is the result of successive untreated concussions and is commonly found among contact sports participants, like football players. Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease are examples of CTE. Effects of the condition include the following:
*poor cognitive skills
*depression and demonstration of suicidal tendencies
*inability to control impulses
*progression into dementia
The NFL’s Brain Injury Troubles
The lawsuit, which was filed in California includes a number of defendants, including the NFL, Chargers Football Co. LLC and New Orleans Louisiana Saints LLC. Easton-Bell Sports and Ridell Inc are also named in the suit. The complaint states in part, “From his first snap of youth football until his tragic death, Paul Oliver’s decision-making regarding football was materially impacted, to his detriment, by defendants’ misconduct. Since its inception, the [National Football League] has gone outside of any labor agreement to gratuitously and voluntarily control and regulate every aspect of the football community at large, particularly with respect to safety and health.”
This lawsuit is one of many filed against the NFL regarding its treatment of concussions and brain injuries among players. Earlier this year, a federal judge considered a proposed settlement agreement for a class action suit against the league, which includes $675 million for compensation awards, along with $75 million for widespread baseline assessments. $10 million is included for research and $5 for public service notices. Finalization of the settlement is still pending.
The NFL itself recently reported that three out of every ten players will develop debilitating brain injuries. These conditions are projected to strike them earlier in life and occur at a rate that is twice the national average. The NIH calls this prevalence of CTE among these players a public health concern and asserts that more action is necessary to prevent further tragedies on and off the field.
Brain injuries are serious matters with lasting physical, mental and financial effects for the injured party and the family. If you or a family member has suffered a traumatic brain injury, contact Levin & Perconti at (877) 374-1417 for a free consultation.
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