Being huge sports fans, your South Carolina injury attorneys at Howell and Christmas have posted numerous blog entries on various issues surrounding the sporting world. Despite its recent entry into the off season, the National Football League (NFL) remains a point of interest as College Stars ready themselves for the draft and questions about Peyton Manning’s future attempt to be answered, but of most importance to your lawyers in Charleston is the growing number of head trauma lawsuits being filed by former NFL players against the League.
Last week a panel of judges ruled that the class-action lawsuits filed in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, and California will be consolidated in a federal court in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hundreds of former players and their families have entered in these class-actions, alleging negligence and claiming the League didn’t do enough to mitigate the risks of severe and potentially permanent head injuries for the players, particularly those resulting from repeated head trauma and concussions.
Within these lawsuits there are claims and accusations that the League has deliberately withheld information that is critical to player to player safety, and has failed to inform players that they risked severe and permanent brain damage by returning to the playing field too soon after sustaining concussions. The lawsuits claim that this failure to inform is the cause of the current injuries faced by former players. One plaintiff’s claim goes as far to say that the League used a “hand-picked committee of physicians” to distort the effects of on-the-field head trauma, particularly concussions.
A majority of players represented in these lawsuits describe a range of common symptoms that include headaches, sleeplessness, dementia and severe memory loss, as well as depression. A recent study of 15 former NFL players, conducted at Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, found evidence of a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy in 14 of the former players. The condition is a dementia-like brain disease. According to the study, repeated concussions, sub-concussive blows to the head, or both, represented a causal link in the players suffering from the condition.
In response to the class actions the League released a statement denying the claims and stating it “has long made player safety a priority and continues to take steps to protect player and to advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions.” In response to the claim that NFL physicians downplayed the effects of on-field head trauma, the statement adds that the League has never misrepresented information concerning the risks of playing football, and that “any suggestion to the contrary has no merit.”
Like any fan of professional football your Charleston injury lawyer has recognized that the rules concerning Big Hits and on-field conduct have changed. Players are quickly dealt substantial fines for tackles and hits that have been deemed unsafe. Not to mention the game has seen large improvement of protective equipment over the years and the League has added unaffiliated medical staff to the sidelines to more independently evaluate injured players. But critics maintain these changes in how the game is governed should have been made years ago.
But issues of liability and negligence on the part of the NFL are by no means cut and dry. Players have acknowledged, and by the playing the sport, accepted the risks associated with the inherently dangerous sport of football, and likely suffered head trauma long before reach professional status in their high school and collegiate years. Thus, it appears it the sport’s culture that has come under attack. It is the encouragement of “tough” behavior to get back out there and play, regardless if your head’s still ringing from the previous play, that very well may have contributed to the risks of long-term brain injury. It is far easier to change and update by-laws and hand out fines for misconduct to professionals than it is to change the ideas and mentality guiding the sport.