Brain Injury Law
Can I Sue for Football Concussions, Head Injuries?
On average, a football player can expect to have a professional career consisting of about three or four seasons. However, careers may be cut short because of head injuries that are incurred at the pro level. Injuries that are incurred at the youth, high school, or college levels may also have a significant impact on a player's health. Let's look at the potential effects a head injury can cause as well as whether a player can file a brain injury lawsuit after getting hurt.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a condition that occurs when the brain experiences trauma on a regular basis. While anyone can develop this condition, athletes are often afflicted with it. It has been diagnosed in boxers and hockey players as well as in football players. Some individuals do not display any symptoms of the disease during their lifetimes.
However, many people will experience symptoms such as confusion, memory loss, or agitation. Depression and symptoms similar to dementia may also occur in those who have CTE. In many cases, symptoms do not present themselves for many years after the last traumatic hit to the head. While new techniques are being developed to diagnose CTE in living patients, most research is performed on the brains of deceased individuals.
In August 2013, the NFL agreed to pay a $765 million settlement to its 18,000 retired players. This was the result of a lawsuit by thousands of former players who argued that the league should have done more to warn them about the dangers of hits to the head.
Furthermore, the suit argued that the league had some understanding of the dangers of head trauma and failed to tell players about it. Players would be allowed to collect anywhere from $3 to $5 million depending on the severity of their symptoms.
However, as a result of the settlement, the NFL may not have to reveal what it knew about head injuries and when. It may also be allowed to seal any information concerning the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee that was formed in 1994 and continued to operate for many years after.
While there is a large focus on understanding the effects of concussions on adults, head injuries can have a significant impact on children as well. Two mothers in California have filed a brain injury lawsuit against Pop Warner for its role in contributing to their sons committing suicide in their 20s. After their deaths, it was determined that both men had CTE. They had both played Pop Warner football for several years as children.
A Wisconsin mother also sued Pop Warner after her son committed suicide in 2012. That suit claimed that the league was negligent for allowing children to play a tackle variety of football that their bodies were not capable of handling. Specifically, it pointed to a Boston University study that found those who played football before age 12 were more likely to suffer from cognitive issues.
In September 2017, a lawyer representing the estate of former New England Patriot tight end Aaron Hernandez filed a $20 million lawsuit against the team and the NFL. The suit claims that the NFL was not forthcoming about the potential dangers that players faced regarding head injuries. Hernandez committed suicide in his jail cell while serving a life sentence for a murder conviction.
After his death, it was discovered that he had a severe case of CTE. Legal analysts say that the suit may not be successful because Hernandez did not opt out of the 2013 CTE settlement. In October 2017, the case was refiled in state court. This version of the lawsuit named the NFL and Riddell without naming the Patriots as a defendant. Riddell makes helmets and other equipment used by football players.
Obtaining compensation by way of a CTE case involves several steps. First, it may be necessary for an individual to prove that he or she actually has the condition. However, this may be problematic since most patients aren't diagnosed until after they have died. Even if a person has symptoms consistent with CTE, the evidence may be circumstantial at best.
Furthermore, it will be necessary to prove that the symptoms were specifically caused by a blow to the head. Those who are suing a sports league may also need to show that the injuries occurred as a result of playing football as opposed to a fall at home or a car accident. This may be difficult in some cases if the symptoms of CTE don't show up until many years after a player's career is over.
Finally, it may be necessary to show that a player had no idea that playing football could cause significant head injuries. While it may be easier for parents of youth players or the youth players themselves to make this argument, it may be tougher for professional athletes who have played in recent years or are playing today.
Those who believe that they have developed CTE because of their time playing football may wish to contact an attorney and find out their options for filing a lawsuit. It may be possible to pursue compensation if a league was negligent in not protecting its players from head injuries. This negligence may include the failure to enforce proper tackling techniques, provide adequate protective equipment, or disclose information about the impact of repetitive head trauma.