The National Football League was sued by approximately 2,000 former players on Thursday over allegations that the league downplayed and hid evidence of the risk of brain injury.†The class action suit will join up with more than 80 suits previously filed by former players.
“The NFL, like the sport of boxing, was aware of the health risks associated with repetitive blows producing sub-concussive and concussive results and the fact that some members of the NFL player population were at significant risk of developing long-term brain damage and cognitive decline as a result,” the suit charges.
The suit comes amid growing concern over the long-term impact of brain injuries sustained by players. In the past 18 months, three former players — Dave Duerson, Ray Easterling, and Junior Seau — have committed suicide. Both Duerson and Seau shot themselves in the chest, and Duerson asked in his suicide note for his brain to be examined for signs of trauma.
Duerson ultimately was found to have suffered chronic traumatic encephalopathy, permanent brain damage similar to that seen in at least 20 other deceased players.
Mary Ann Easterling, the widow of Ray Easterling, said in an Associated Press interview that the damage to players was overwhelming.
“Half the time the player puts themselves back in the game, and they don’t know what kind of impact it has,” she said. “Somehow this has got to be stopped. It’s destroying people’s lives.”
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is a degenerative disease suffered by people with a history of multiple concussions or head injuries. Symptoms of the disease include psychotic symptoms, depression, erratic behavior, body control issues similar to Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
In a statement, the NFL said that they had been up-front with players about risk.
“The NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so,” the statement said. “Any allegation that the NFL sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league’s many actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions.”
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