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Former Players Suing The NFL: Do They Have A Case?

Holy brain injuries Batman!
Holy brain injuries Batman!

New legal troubles arising for the NFL. As many as seventy-five former players will be suing the league, claiming that the NFL had information concerning the effects of concussions as early as the 1920's, but withheld it from officials, trainers, coaches, players, etc. until June of 2010. From the way they make it sound, the players had no clue that repeated brain injuries could cause severe, lingering brain damage. 

Here's the way I see it.

While I'm unfamiliar with the legal obligations of the league to inform players, it seems like maybe this is just a matter of common sense. If the league is obligated by law to inform players of their "groundbreaking" findings, then by all means, the players have a case, but it seems kind of like crying over spilled milk. I'm actually a little bit surprised that the players are trying to blame the league for this. Maybe going to, I don't know, a doctor would have helped? A neurologist perhaps? Maybe earning some compensation is their way of paying for the medical bills, I don't know. It's a sensitive topic for sure and it's hard to take sides, but it appears that the players have a case. 

Reportedly, the league will "vigorously contest" the claims, but will listen to any complaints. In any case, here's a summary of their complaints. 

The 75 former players accuse the NFL of engaging in "a scheme of fraud and deceit" by having members of the NFL's Brain Injury Committee "deny knowledge of a link between concussion and cognitive decline and claim that more time was needed to reach a definitive conclusion on the issue."

"When the NFL's Brain Injury Committee anticipated studies that would implicate causal links between concussion and cognitive degeneration it promptly published articles producing contrary findings, although false, distorted and deceiving, as part of the NFL's scheme to deceive Congress, the players and the public at large," the suit says. "The defendants acted willfully, wantonly, egregiously, with reckless abandon, and with a high degree of moral culpability," the former players charge in court documents.

The suit notes that in 1994, the NFL studied concussion research through funding the NFL Committee on Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. The committee's published findings in 2004 showed "no evidence of worsening injury or chronic cumulative effects" from multiple concussions, the suit says. In addition, in a related study, the committee found that "many NFL players can be safely allowed to return to play" on the day of a concussion, if they are without symptoms and cleared by a doctor.

However, "it was not until June 2010 that the NFL acknowledged that concussions can lead to dementia, memory loss, CTE and related symptoms by publishing (a) warning to every player and team," says the suit.

Serious business, but again, I can't help but feel that a little research, no, actually, no research at all, would have been enough for even the most thickheaded individual to arrive at the conclusion that repeated head trauma leads to brain damage. I realize that that's not the issue here, even so, it seems kind of iffy. I don't doubt that the league never published many of their findings, but were they obliged to? For this case to have any legs at all, they have to have been. If they weren't, it was a pretty scummy thing to do, but it's not against the law and I doubt the hearing will go anywhere. Anybody else have an opinion?