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Kevin Turner played eight seasons in the NFL with the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. Turner was also the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the NFL over the league's handling of concussions. "It's about helping people who had their brains affected in a very drastic way, and to make their lives so much more livable," he told The New York Times in 2014, "not just them but their families, and to supplement their health care."
Turner passed away last Thursday, at the age of 46.
Leaving a Legacy
Turner was also diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2010. His passing was due to the effects of ALS, but whether his ALS was due to his football career is a larger question, the answer to which he dedicated his later life: "Football had something to do with it," Turner told ESPN. "I don't know to what extent, and I may not ever know. But there are too many people I know that have ALS and played football in similar positions. They seem to be linebackers, fullbacks, strong safeties. Those are big collision guys."
He created the Kevin Turner Foundation to bring attention to ALS and other sports-related brain trauma, and to support research and treatment initiatives. Turner also donated his brain to ongoing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) research.
Leading the Way
Perhaps his most lasting legacy, however, will be as the lead plaintiff in a concussion lawsuit against the NFL that began with 100 ex-players and ballooned to cover more than 4,500 former NFL players. That case originally settled for $760 million, but a judge later removed the damages cap. The settlement doesn't cover every ex-player with grievances about how the NFL handled concussions, but it was a huge step forward in receiving some compensation from the league.
In a moving tribute, Dave Zirin wrote:
"...ALS robbed Kevin Turner of his bodily control joint by joint, yet he never lost either his fierce dignity or his courage. In fact, Kevin Turner's willingness to be as public as possible about the condition of his body and take on the NFL is really one of the more courageous acts we've seen in this sports world."