Traumatic brain injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm announce that the National Football League (NFL) recently reached a tentative settlement of $765 million with over 4,500 former players. The settlement will include aftercare for the devastating injuries caused by concussions, however, the league did not reveal exactly what it knows – and knew – about the reality of head injuries in football.
The terms of the settlement left everyone who has even remotely followed this story with a surplus of mounting, unanswered, ambiguous questions: what about the school-aged children who dream of playing in the NFL? What about the adult players who are concerned for their own safety throughout their career? To what extent do sports-related head injuries have on the public’s future health?
The $765 settlement will fund medical exams and brain injury research studies as well as provide compensation to the 4,500 plaintiffs who are currently suffering from the debilitating, often devastating effects of concussions. The plaintiffs, some of the larger names being Jim McMahon, Art Monk, and the family of Junior Seau, sued the NFL for knowingly concealing the long-term health effects of repeated blows the head.
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Dr. Elliot Pellman is, and has been for quite some time, the chairman of the NFL’s research committee on concussions. It is not secret that his conduct during this case has been less than commendable, even trite, as the court never required him to submit his research information. This only further reinforces the status quo and does not provide anyone, particularly those who deserve it the most, with answers. To shed some light on this doctor’s diagnostic expertise, he once wrote in a medical journal that concussions suffered in professional football games were “not serious injuries.”
In fact, Pellman has no real medical background in neurology – he attended medical school in Guadalajara, Mexico. He served on the NFL’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee between 1994 and 2007, when he resigned amid intense criticism, though he continues to give the league medical “advice.”
Throughout litigation, the NFL contended that it issued warnings about the dangers of brain injuries since medical research was made available on the issue. It also argued that player safety is governed by the new collective bargaining agreement with the NFL, which was approved in 2011 and dictates everything from drug testing to concussion liability.
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In recent decades and particularly since this case began, irrefutable and ample evidence has emerged about the very real, long-term health effects of brain injuries and concussions. The man who filed the first suit, the lead plaintiff and former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, committed suicide in April 2012. His death was followed by Junior Seau’s tragedy in 2013. A former Bears safety, Save Duerson, committed suicide in 2011, and was later diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) caused by brain trauma.
Kevin Turner and Steve Gleason, plaintiffs and former NFL players, are currently battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ASL), a brutal and debilitating disease. The list of conditions caused by repeated brain injuries is long and continues to expand. Jim McMahon has been diagnosed with early-stage dementia and already has trouble remembering what he did ten minutes ago. In 2012 he told reporters that if he could have done it all over again, he would have tried out for baseball. Others suffer from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, CTE, major depression, and bipolar disorder.
Coaches, players and families at all levels are amending the game to reflect imminent threat of brain injury, particularly in the frequency and intensity of hits during practice. Research tells us that players’ biggest threat is what’s known as the sub-concussive hit – when linemen butt heads during each and every play.
Football players, like firemen and professional snowboarders, are aware of risks of the game; that is not what this suit was about. It was about the NFL turning the other well-informed cheek when players were allowed and encouraged to stay in the game after suffering concussions. Dr. Pellman, to be sure, once wrote that “many concussed players can be safely allowed to return to play on the day of the injury.” They can’t, and they should never have to.
Players who exited games were booed, called cowards, and had their commitment to their team questioned. This was clear negligence on the part of the NFL – the result of which is permanent damage to the one organ in the body we know the least about but is most critical to our emotional, physical, and spiritual health. As part of the settlement, the league denies any liability or admission of guilt for the players’ injuries, and it will not be compelled to share any internal documents regarding its research into this issue. The truth, however, is self-evident, and with any luck the agreement will help make the game safer for current and future players, though this process has made it difficult to trust brain injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on developments made in this field and others related to it. The long-term effects of concussions and sub-concussive hits are known and extremely serious. If you or a loved one suffered a brain injury through the negligence or fraudulent concealment of another, you may be entitled to significant compensation for past and future medical bills, and should contact a qualified attorney today.