Athletes inherently face the risk of injury. Even professional athletes regularly suffer strains, sprains, or fractures in the regular course of practice or competition. Occasionally, however, certain injuries occur in sports that raise concerns regarding the safety of the sport as a whole. In recent months, the National Football League (NFL) has been under public scrutiny for news regarding serious brain and spinal injuries among its former and current players.
Brain injury lawsuit
The NFL recently settled a lawsuit with thousands of former players regarding brain injuries suffered while playing for the league. The former players claimed that the NFL purposefully concealed evidence regarding the true risks of players sustaining traumatic brain injuries and the potentially long-lasting effects thereof. They claimed that the NFL glorified tough, news-worthy hits and tackles in order to make the sport more exciting and increase revenue. According to the lawsuit, NFL coaches and officials furthermore encouraged players to return to the field after blows to the head despite possible concussions or other traumatic brain injuries.
Medical research shows that after a person sustains one brain injury, he or she is more likely to sustain another, especially if the initial injury was not properly treated. Additionally, research unequivocally shows that repeated concussions or other brain injuries can have life-long devastating effects. Many former NFL players are experiencing such effects, including:
- Short or long-term memory loss
- Early onset Alzheimer’s
- Other cognitive difficulties or disorders
- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)
CTE is a particularly concerning condition because it may only be diagnosed post-mortem. CTE sufferers often experience severe depression and suicidal tendencies. In fact, two former NFL players, Junior Seau and Ray Easterling, were diagnosed with CTE after committing suicide and their families participated in the lawsuit on their behalf.
The NFL ultimately settled the lawsuit, agreeing to pay up to 80,000 eligible former players a total of $765 million dollars. The amount a player receives depends on the specific types of brain injury symptoms suffered. Though the NFL agreed to compensate former players for their brain injuries, this may only be the beginning as new lawsuits have been filed in federal court against the organization.
Recent spinal injury
Though NFL games continue to be an extremely popular form of entertainment for Americans, the regular occurrence of potentially preventable injuries is disconcerting. Just recently, the tight end for the Green Bay Packers, Jermichael Finley, suffered a blow to the neck and was temporarily paralyzed. Though Finley is determined to return to the NFL next season, his career may be over and he was lucky he did not suffer a more serious spinal injury and permanent paralysis.
News of the lawsuit and Finley’s frightening injury have both caused sports professionals to wonder what more can be done to better protect players. Over recent decades, NFL players have become bigger, stronger, and more capable of devastating hits and tackles, however the rules of the game and the required protective equipment have largely remained the same. Professionals, players, and fans alike have started wondering whether rules should be changed to more strictly limit dangerous physical contact or whether additional head and neck protections are necessary.
Any sports team, whether little league, amateur, or professional, has a responsibility to act with reasonable care to keep participants safe. If you or your child has suffered a sports injury due to negligent actions by your coach, sports league, or another player, you deserve to be fully compensated for those injuries and should contact an experienced Framingham sports accidents attorney to discuss a possible case. Do not hesitate to call the Cappetta Law Offices at (508) 969-9505 to schedule a free consultation.