FOOTBALL PLAYER'S FAMILY SUES THE NFL FOR BRAIN INJURIES
Written By: Rheingold, Valet, Rheingold, Ruffo & Giuffra LLP
By Thamanna Hussain
Head injuries, particularly those in football, have become a subject of deep concern. Throughout recent years, there have been numerous suits based on brain injuries not only involving former players touched by concussions, but researchers also say children who play tackle football face similar threats of brain damage. Many researchers also claim that overwhelming evidence shows repeated hits to the head over time causes a loss of brain cells and brain damage. Neurologists say helmets help, but they protect from injuries to the skull more than the brain because the brain still moves around while the skull is protected. While concussions do not cause physical swelling or bleeding, the injury generally occurs when the head either accelerates fast and then is stopped, or is spun quickly. This fast shaking leads to the brain cells flooding the brain with chemicals and deadening certain receptors linked to learning and memory. The results often include confusion, blurred vision, memory loss, nausea and, sometimes, unconsciousness.
Among the scores of lawsuits against the NFL, recently there has been a significant case which questions the NFL of hiding information that linked football-related head trauma to permanent brain injuries. Deceased football player, Junior Seau's family is filing a lawsuit against the NFL for wrongful death over head injuries that he suffered throughout his career. According to Bloomberg News, reports state that over "3,000 former players have sued the NFL seeking damages for head injuries. The complaints accuse the league of negligence and the NFL's failure to inform players of the link between repeated traumatic head impacts and long-term brain injuries."
Seau's death is the latest in publicized suicides by former players. After Seau committed suicide last May, his family alleged that the NFL "failed to protect Seau from the dangers of hits to the head and their long-term effects." Several researchers who studied Seau's brain found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative disease that has been found in a number of other athletes who have passed away. The disease is caused by concussions and other repeated head traumas and causes symptoms like memory loss, mood disorders, depression and early-onset dementia.
In response to the lawsuit, the NFL referred to the many health programs it runs for current and former players, and a series of medical benefits to former NFL players to help them after football. Those include joint replacement, neurological evaluations and spine treatment programs, assisted living partnerships, long-term care insurance, prescription benefits, life insurance programs, and a Medicare supplement program. Attorneys for the players said they were not trying to tear apart the NFL, but only wanted to ensure that it lives up to its obligations to provide a safer sport for all players.
Our firm has extensive experience with brain injuries. We use experts to do a battery of "neuro-cognitive" tests which evaluate physical ability, memory and emotional factors. A very important part of assessment will be for personality changes, known in medical terms as "change in affect." Often family members will notice a distinct personality change (usually for the worse-moody, angry, depressed) while the inured client doesn't know their personality has changed. We use detailed medical evaluations in order to obtain significant settlements and jury verdicts.