A complaint consolidating over 80 nationwide lawsuits alleges that the National Football League "glorifies the brutality" associated with the hard hits that players often suffer while playing the popular and dangerous sport. Players and family members alike accuse the NFL of negligence, along with failing to properly inform players of the reportedly high risk associated with multiple traumatic head impacts and long-term brain injuries. The complaint, filed in a Pennsylvania federal court, lists dementia, early onset Alzheimer's disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy among those long-term brain injury problems suffered by players.
While the league denies the allegations leveled against it, the complaint maintains that the NFL promotes the image that taking big hits in football is just a "badge of courage" that does not pose a serious risk to player health.
The complaint comes upon the heels of the suicide of well-known former player Junior Seau, who shot himself after reportedly suffering from years of depression and insomnia in the wake of his 20-year football career. His widow revealed that he had been diagnosed with dementia in 2011 and believes that the NFL both could and should have done more to keep her husband safe during his time as a professional football player. She said that her husband began showing signs of brain injury damage 20 years ago and progressively grew worse before tragically taking his own life.
The Pennsylvania complaint also accuses the NFL of having knowledge about the high risk of repetitive brain injuries as early as the 1970s. Supposedly, though, the NFL took no significant steps to face that risk head on until 1994, when it created a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee. Thereafter, the NFL allegedly tried to suppress medical literature revealing links between such brain injury occurrences and post-career brain damage. The complaint maintains that the league went so far as to produce industry-funded and false or biased research minimizing the impact of head impacts.
One former player who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis wants the NFL to be accountable when it comes to brain injury risk to players. Only then can other players be protected against the repeated brain injuries alleged to cause long-standing harm to professional players. The Pennsylvania federal court overseeing this brain injury case must now weigh the facts alleged by both sides before rendering a verdict.
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Former NFL Players File Consolidated Head-Injury Claims," Sophia Pearson, June 7, 2012