N.F.L. Concussion Update (Updated!)

Football and Helmet

Football and Helmet by cheddar

Yesterday we wrote about a local high school quarterback who experienced his second concussion in just a few months. We also mentioned the damaging affects of concussions and a call for action to create better safety equipment across all sports to reduce the potential for concussions.

Today, the New York Times shed light on a current concussion case, which is hitting a key phase of litigation that could alter lawsuits across the country. 4,500 retired players of the N.F.L. claim that the league “misled them about the dangers of head injuries” have brought the lawsuit. Pending right now is a motion to dismiss filed by the N.F.L., which is looking to get the claim dropped or even some of the claims of negligence or fraud dismissed. (A copy of the Amended Complaint can be found here: http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/pennsylvania/paedce/2:2011cv05209/435351/4/)

The decision on this motion to dismiss could spell trouble or victory for the retired N.F.L. players, college and high school athletes who have all been affected by the lasting side effects of concussions and head related injuries. According to the N.F.L., they have “denied accusations that [they] deliberately misled players about head injuries, saying that [they] relied on the best science available at the time to create policies on concussions.”  Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is expected to rule sometime next week.

As mention in yesterday’s blog, the NCAA has been involved in similar litigation over the side effects and safety equipment in college football. The NCAA has preliminarily agreed that negotiations and settlement would be a likely route. However, that path may not be as likely in the N.F.L. case. “I think it’s very unlikely that mediation will work at this stage. […] Often times in class action litigation, settlement occurs during or after the discovery,” said Marc Edelman of Baruch College. Players don’t think they can wait much longer for the N.F.L. to take action and provide relief for these retired players.

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of us that don’t have 10 years to find out what the decision is,” the former fullback Kevin Turner said in April after oral arguments in the case were heard. Turner, 44, who played for the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, was found to have A.L.S., also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2010.”

Some may be wondering what type of changes we would like to see aside from a monetary fund to support injured football players. How about safer helmets? Riddell, one of the primary makers of football helmets, designed the new Riddell 360, which is supposed to reduce potential for concussions. You’re likely to see many college and N.F.L. players wearing this helmet on College Football Opening Weekend.

In an article by CBS Sports, Riddell explains how new technology and an emphasis on player safety helped design the safer helmet. “The design of the helmet — which also features additional comfort features like more lightweight technologies for the facemask and shell, as well enhanced locking cradles to keep the helmet from flying off (ahem, new college football rule) — is based off of Riddell’s Head Impact Telemetry System (HITS).

HITS assesses around 1.4 million impacts on a helmet and determines the location, magnitude, duration and direction of head impacts and collects that information in order for the company to better process where helmets need the greatest protection.”

Regardless of which team you root for Friday through Sunday, we have to be concerned about the safety of our student-athletes and professional athletes. While we are making strides with better safety equipment, some of the responsibility rests on the leagues (N.F.L., NCAA, and High School Athletic Associations) to get serious in discussing methods to make the game safer.

UPDATE:  As of today, the NFL has reached a $765 million settlement with former NFL players to fund medical exams, research, and compensation.  The settlement awaits approval from the judge overseeing the case.  Read more about this historic decision at CNN

Wooten Kimbrough, P.A.  Orlando Personal Injury Attorneys



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