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Concussion Crisis

January 3, 2015

Football should mainly be an enjoyable sport for players and spectators alike. Sometimes the familiar enjoyment turns into dangerous injuries that result in irreparable effects. Athletes risk more than the mere bruises and broken bones. Specifically, the latest issues surround the dangers of concussions amongst professional players in the NFL. Football related concussions are generally caused by the extreme and consistent impact from knocking into each other. The pattern of repetitive head traumas may result in severe brain damage with long lasting mental and physical health effects. Concussions are part of the most common head-impact injuries, and may often cause traumatic brain injuries, leading to neurodegenerative disorders and diseases.

The buildup of health issues from such traumatic head injuries conjured up a most recent lawsuit against the league. A multi-million dollar class action suit, which covers a class of nearly 20,000 former/retired players, was filed for due to the suffering caused by severe concussion head traumas. The initial $675 million cap on damages for deteriorating mental and physical conditions endured by former players was brought in as a complaint from the devastation of the aftermath of numerous concussions.

On July 7, 2014, a federal judge granted a revised settlement agreement in the class action suit. This included monetary awards capped at $5 million for diagnoses of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, $4 million for Dementia, and $3 million for certain cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE (a neuropathological finding) diagnosed after death. This settlement was used to determine which individuals were rightfully affected and who could recover damages for their injuries. Although an agreement has been settled on, current and future players are unable to benefit from the monetary awards.

However, the lawsuit did not deem as suitable for a number of NFL players who have endured significant struggle in their careers because of these injuries. Many ex-players are suffering from brain damage after retiring, and these injuries will place them in a detrimental state for the remainder of their lives. For some that are currently still part of the NFL, they have to choose whether to become inactive players because the damage of their concussion collisions has caused such drastic effects on their health. Continuing to actively play is no longer an option for them. Thus, there is a detriment to the quality in those players’ daily lives, and they will likely endure future family and personal uphill battles with their physical and mental health.

Kansas City based, Attorney McLain, who represents nearly two dozen former professional football players in a lawsuit regarding their suffering of head injuries stated:

“Our worst fears were realized. We found our players had significant emotional and impulse control problems that according to [Boston University] are tied to head injury. And none of them qualify for awards under the settlement. It’s a bogus deal. A fraudulent deal on its face, completely illusory, designed to pay very few people except the lawyers and the players in the most extreme [illness] category. All of these men saddled with neurological problems throughout their lifetimes are not the NFL’s concern. The NFL’s concern is containing risk, just as if they were [General Motors] and these players are faulty ignitions.”

Nearly a third of retired players will develop long-term cognitive issues from head injuries. In addition, the former players will likely suffer depression, anxiety, loss of memory and a list of continued ailments, causing families to suffer in the long run. It certainly begs the question: is this really just a game?