If you’re a sports fan, or even if you’re not you have probably heard of the NFL concussion litigation filed by nearly 4,000 former football players claiming that the NFL hid the risk of concussions and head injuries and instead glorifying the masculine and violent nature of football. A recent twist has come about with the litigation spawned from former Pro Bowl player Junior Seau’s suicide last year.
On May 2nd last year Seau, a 43 year old former linebacker who played for San Diego, Miami and New England over a span of 20 years, passed away from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his San Diego home. Those that survived Seau filed suit against the NFL alleging that the violent hits he sustained throughout his career as a football player led to a traumatic brain injury (diagnosed as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, after his death) that ultimately caused his untimely death via suicide.
Federal NFL Concussion Litigation
Recently the Seau wrongful death lawsuit was removed from court in California and consolidated with the NFL concussion litigation in federal court. Next week a hearing is set to decide whether or not the keep the case in federal court because the NFL would like these claims to be arbitration based on the leagues collective bargaining agreement but players and their attorneys would like to keep the litigation in the Federal Court. Last August the NFL sought to dismiss the class action arguing that the collective bargaining agreement covers all safety and health concerns and gives the power of such decisions to individual teams.
Allegations of Negligence and Concealment
Despite the league’s denial of any fraud or concealment, players accuse the NFL of negligence and concealment of known medical links between instances of concussion and brain injuries. The players assert that head injury can often lead to dementia, Alzheimer's disease as well as increase risk of reckless or suicidal behavior. Lawyers for the NFL however say "It stands in contrast to the league's actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions.”
Seau is not the only NFL superstar to take his own life in such a manner. Last April former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, committed suicide only one year after signing on to the litigation. Seau’s parents Tiaina and Luisa Seau say that the success of the NFL “comes at a price to the players who make the game great", an unfortunate outcome for their son. Another lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Junior Seau’s four surviving children, seeking an unspecified amount of money for the loss of their father.
Despite the onslaught of players coming forward, not all have chosen to remain on board after joining the litigation. Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Pat White, although he continues “to suffer from permanent injuries [including] severe headaches, speech issues, memory loss” has decided to withdraw from the lawsuit and instead sign on with the Washington Redskins.
This begs the question of whether White’s allegations in the lawsuit were legitimate to begin with? If not, how about the rest of the allegations against the NFL?
This is certainly an interesting set of cases, the outcome of which could have a dramatic effect on professional sports in general.
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