NFL Concussion Lawsuit

For years, the NFL failed to protect its players from repeated hits to the head, resulting in countless concussions. Thousands of players have come forward to sue the league for damages. The result was an estimated $1 billion settlement to cover over 20,000 retired NFL players for the next 65 years.

What Is A Concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a jolt to the head or body that rapidly jerks the head back and forth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this sudden motion can cause the brain to bounce around the skill, resulting in damage to brain cells and chemical changes.

In 2015, the NFL reported a total of 271 concussions occurred in practice or games over the course of the season. That number was up 31.6% from the previous year. Concussions during football games happen most often as a result of an impact from another helmet. The next most common occurrence of concussions comes from an impact on the playing surface.

Background of NFL Concussion Lawsuits

The discussion surrounding the NFL and concussions is a hot topic that has been covered by all the major news outlets. Even though the conversation seems to be a new phenomenon, concerns about NFL concussions date back decades.

In 1994, then NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue created the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) committee to investigate concussions in its players. At the time, the issue of concussions was at the bottom of the league’s list of concerns. Here is what a team doctor who chaired the MTBI told Newsday in 1994:

“We discuss it on the list of things every time we have a league meeting … We think the issue of knees, of drugs and steroids and drinking, is a far greater problem, according to the number of incidents.”

For decades after the creation of the MTBI, the league consistently and repeatedly denied any connection between concussions and their effect on brain function.

In 2011, Ray Easterling, a former safety for the Atlanta Falcons, filed the first lawsuit against the league for deceiving and denying the growing body of research pointing to serious issues concussions pose for its current and retired players. Thousands of others joined Easterling in taking on the NFL.

Here is an excerpt from the court documents:

“The NFL’s response to the issue of brain injuries and degenerative brain disease in retired NFL players has been, until very recently, a concerted effort of deception and denial. The NFL actively tried to and did conceal the extent of the concussion and brain trauma problem, the risk to the Plaintiffs, and the risks to anyone else who played football.”

Symptoms of NFL Concussions

A concussion is the most frequent and least serious type of traumatic brain injury. In fact, between 2001 and 2009, an estimated 173,285 people under the age of 20 were treated in emergency rooms for concussions. Despite the regularity of concussions in sports, traumatic brain injuries can leave sufferers feeling disoriented.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, concussions are difficult to diagnose in routine examinations. However, if a person is unable to maintain a clear stream of thought, is easily distracted, and cannot carry out a sequence of goal-oriented movements, he may be suffering from a concussion.

Secondary symptoms like dizziness, memory loss, ringing in ears, sensitivity to light, impaired balance, prolonged headache, and nausea may also point to mild brain injuries.

Long-Term Effects of NFL Concussions

Despite being categorized as the least serious type of traumatic brain injury, concussions can still have deleterious long-term effects.

Those who suffer from repeated concussions could develop a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Unlike concussion symptoms, which generally resolve within two weeks, CTE is when brain damage persists for years or decades and results in a gradual deterioration of the brain.

According to the Brain Injury Research Institute, common symptoms of CTE include memory loss, impaired judgment, erratic behavior, depression, aggression, and a gradual onset of dementia.

As early as 1998, legendary Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster claimed repeated blows to the head in the NFL gave him dementia. It wasn’t until after his death in 2002 that an autopsy revealed he suffered from CTE. At that time, it was previously believed CTE was a condition found only in boxers.

Webster wasn’t the only player to suffer from CTE, which ultimately affected his life’s trajectory and relationships. In 2005, former Steeler Terry Long committed suicide by drinking antifreeze and was later found to have CTE. In 2006, Andre Waters committed suicide and a later examination revealed CTE. Even Ray Esterling, who took legal action against the NFL along with thousands of others, shot himself. An autopsy found he also had CTE.

In August 2013, the NFL agreed to pay $765 million to settle a lawsuit brought by thousands of former players suffering from concussions and their aftereffects. Even though the NFL said the settlement was not an admission of guilt, it was a step toward helping the nearly 3 in 10 former players who could develop Alzheimer’s or moderate dementia.

This settlement helps ensure retired football players or their families get compensated for life-altering brain injuries. Despite these steps, there is still a lot of work needed to prevent these injuries from happening in the future.

File a NFL Concussion Lawsuit

The NFL has consistently ignored or disparaged research linking repeated concussions to its players with long-term side effects. This willful ignorance has resulted in numerous suicides and ruined lives. The time has come for the NFL to pay for irresponsible policies and negligence it has allowed to persist.