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Former NHL Players Sue Over Concussions

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Former NHL players are rallying to sue the League for not doing enough to protect past players from concussions.

St. Louis Blues player Gary Leeman (1996-1997) and nine other former players have joined in a federal class-action lawsuit on Monday against the National Hockey League (NHL), seeking compensation for past and future medical costs as a result of brain trauma incurred during their careers, reports ESPN.

Will ex-hockey players follow former football stars in reaching a settlement for their injuries?

Concussion Suit Points to NHL Disregard for Safety

Much like their fellow athletes on turf, hockey players have slowly become aware of studies -- that both the NFL and NHL were aware of -- citing the effects of traumatic brain injuries in the long term.

According to ESPN, the new NHL class action alleges that:

  • The NHL knew or should have known about this sort of research,
  • The NHL's own "concussion program" from 1997 - 2004 generated no new safety measures to reduce head injuries, and
  • No penalties for targeting a player's head were instituted until 2010.

The NHL has been accused of looking the other way or even actively condoning the "hockey fight" and aggressive players, but now those allegations have coalesced into a real liability.

Leeman allegedly suffered "multiple concussions" during his career with the NHL, and the suit alleges that he continues to suffer headaches, memory loss, dizziness, and post-traumatic head syndrome, reports ESPN. Many of these conditions caused by traumatic brain injuries can be permanent.

Is Settlement Near?

Former players in the class action suit just filed in late November, and it may be well into later 2014 or even 2015 until the NHL is willing to talk settlement.

For comparison, the NFL's recent class action settlement of $765 million for over 4,000 former players was reached in late August, more than a year since the players filed in federal court in May 2012.

Meanwhile, the NHL's deputy commissioner Bill Daly stated in a press release that the League was "aware of the class action lawsuit" but are "completely satisfied" with its treatment of player safety. The NHL intends to "defend the case vigorously," according to Daly's statement, so settlement may be a ways off.

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