Elk Grove Personal Injury Lawyer Discusses NFL Player Brain Injuries
Over the years, the NFL has undergone extreme criticism for its failure to take care of players after retirement that suffer from permanent disability or long-term medical effects related to injuries sustained while playing football. Back in 1994, the NFL Commissioner founded the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) Committee that was focused on determining whether any long-term health effects arose from concussions sustained during football games. A doctor with no background in neurology or neuropsychology with no experience with head trauma was appointed lead of the MTBI Committee. The Committee began conducting surveys and studies and releasing findings. In sum, since the Committee was created, the results of the studies have largely concluded that football concussions were not affiliated with long-term effects.
However, independent medical research programs also looked into the evidence and found that concussions, especially repeated head trauma, were the cause of the overwhelming number of retired players’ brain injuries. These studies found that football players who sustained concussions while on the field suffered from a variety of brain injuries and other brain-related medical conditions later on in life, including:
- Depression and suicidal thoughts
- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
- Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
The NFL provided no assistance to players after retirement. However, many players who sustained concussions during games went on to suffer from chronic head trauma, resulting in high medical bills.
In 2012, Junior Seau, a beloved linebacker, committed suicide. An autopsy revealed that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This inspired former football players and loved ones of players who had passed away to file one of the largest class action lawsuits ever recorded. The lawsuit, filed against the NFL, alleged that the NFL was largely responsible for chronic traumatic encephalopathy and demanded remuneration for brain injuries. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is caused by multiple concussions and leads to changes in the brain. It can only be diagnosed by autopsy, so exact figures regarding its prevalence cannot be given.
The NFL finally admitted there may be some link between concussions and long-term brain damage and agreed to settle with the players for $1 billion. While $1 billion sounds like a lot, each class member will only receive approximately $190,000, in many cases not enough to cover future medical bills. Players diagnosed with more severe brain injuries or diseases like Parkinson’s would receive more money. The $1 billion settlement was designed to cover approximately 20,000 players over a 65-year period.
However, many of the players are now appealing the settlement, arguing that the NFL managed to shirk responsibility for the crux of the lawsuit – that football concussions cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy. In its current form, the settlement excludes this disease, which is marked by decay and deterioration of the brain. While the settlement does pay up to $4 million to survivors of those who died from this disease, it cuts off any claims after April 2015. According to one lawyer, “CTE was the soundpiece of the original (lawsuit). It is a fundamental issue in the case. It is mentioned 14 times.”
The NFL is arguing that including chronic traumatic encephalopathy and all of the conditions it causes such as depression could lead to widespread abuse. In fact, the appellate judge who heard oral arguments asked if any player could claim money from the settlement fund simply for feeling depressed. The NFL is also arguing that the lawyers for the plaintiffs are only appealing because they stand to gain more in fees.
The Law Offices of Edward A. Smith
If you or a loved one suffered a brain injury in Elk Grove, call my law firm, the Law Offices of Edward A. Smith, immediately at (916) 694-0002 locally or (800) 404-5400 toll-free for fast and friendly advice.
I am also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an elite group of trial lawyers who have won multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements.