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NFL Concussion Lawsuit Information

Dave Duerson reportedly shot himself in the chest instead of the head so that he could die without damaging his brain. As a retired professional football player, Duerson suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) brought about from the numerous concussions he suffered during his career.

According to the complaint filed in the so-called "NFL Concussion Lawsuit," Duerson had been suffering from months of headaches, blurred vision, and memory loss. He wanted his brain to be studied so what he suspected could be proven: that the debilitating symptoms he suffered and the abusive behavior it brought on during the final months of his life were a result of the bashing his brain took over the course of his eleven-year National Football League (NFL) career.

An autopsy of his brain revealed significant signs of trauma, including advanced CTE. CTE is a degenerative brain condition caused by repeated blows to the head. Based on this result, and on similar findings for dozens more deceased NFL players, researchers concluded what scientific evidence had indicated for decades: that playing football, with its repeated hits to the head and its unwritten code of "if you can walk, you can play," can cause irreparable and incurable damage to the brain.

In 2012, more than 4,500 players, spouses, and representatives filed the NFL Concussion Lawsuit, suing the NFL for compensation for former players' neurological deterioration and recognition that it came as a result of playing NFL football.

The Lawsuit

The NFL concussion lawsuit, which has since been settled, contained many allegations against the league. Two such allegations were that the NFL (1) knew about the long-term health risks associated with concussions and repeated blows to the head, and (2) deliberately ignored and actively concealed this information in order to protect the economic value of the game. Some of the specific theories of liability in the master complaint filed with the court include allegations that:

  • The NFL was negligent because it had a duty to protect its players from the dangers associated with repeated concussions and hits to the head. The NFL's failure to do so has caused long-term brain damage to its players.
  • From the 1950s on, the NFL fraudulently concealed and continuously denied the dangers of repetitive head impacts that were widely published at the time in scientific and medical literature.
  • The plaintiffs (parties bringing the lawsuit) also asserted a product liability claim against Riddell, the company that makes football helmets, for defectively designing players' helmets and for failing to warn players about the helmets' inability to protect them from the long-term health risks associated with repeated blows to the head.

In 2015, the NFL concussion lawsuit was settled for an estimated $1 billion.

The Beaten Brain: Players' Neurological Damage

The master complaint alleged that players suffered repetitive traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, during NFL games. As a result, players reportedly suffered symptoms such as headaches, blurred vision, memory loss, insomnia, dementia, mood swings, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

This brain deterioration may have contributed to the deaths of many NFL players. For example, before former linebacker Junior Seau committed suicide at age 43, he began having fits of unprovoked anger and started gambling uncharacteristically. Before he died at age 50, Mike Webster, the longtime Pittsburgh Steelers center, suffered from insomnia so debilitating that he required being tasered just so he could fall asleep. And after former defensive back Andre Waters committed suicide at age 44, doctors said his brain tissue had deteriorated to that of an 85-year old man with early stage Alzheimer's disease.

Effects on the Rest of Us

Since the NFL concussion lawsuit began, the NFL has continued to change rules to enhance safety, fund brain injury research, and create youth football programs that teach kids proper tackling. Equipment manufacturers continuously evolve helmet technology to track and reduce the effects of hits to the head. Whether any of this can significantly improve safety in a game that requires violent contact on every play is unknown.

The effects of concussions and hits to the head are not limited to the NFL. Research has emerged indicating that high school and college football players have suffered brain injuries similar to those of NFL players. This means that youth football leagues, high schools, colleges, and their equipment providers may one day face liability for head trauma caused by the game. While parents and children may assume the risk of injuries that can occur when playing football, long-term brain injuries may be outside of such contemplated risks.

The NFL maintains that more research is needed to determine the effects on the brain from playing football. Those currently playing will likely accept the risks as part of their lives. The question is whether parents who are considering signing up their child for pee-wee league football, or watching their son board the team bus, helmet in hand, will feel comfortable waiting for greater certainty and closure.

If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury in the course of playing sports, and you believe that someone else may be at fault for what happened, you may be entitled to legal compensation for the harm. Consulting an experienced personal injury attorney is the best way to protect your legal rights.

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