O’Bannon Ruling Could Help NCAA Concussion Claims

The Supreme Court has turned down an appeal in the case O’Bannon v. NCAA. The lead plaintiff, Ed O’Bannon, a former UCLA basketball player, believes the National Collegiate Athletics Associate (NCAA) does not fairly and adequately compensate student-athletes for their efforts in contributing to the substantial revenue earned by NCAA each year. Although the appeal will not be heard, the case will still have a profound impact on the current NCAA claims. As a result of the decision, the NCAA has been branded as an antitrust violator, and this aspect of the ruling could have profound impact on the nature of how the NCAA must compensate student athletes.

O’Bannon v. NCAA 

Ed O’Bannon played for UCLA’s national championship basketball team in 1995, and in 2009 he filed a lawsuit against the NCAA alleging the association violated antitrust laws and deprived him of his right to publicity. The lawsuit arose after O’Bannon’s likeness was used in a video game for which he did not receive financial compensation for the use of his image. O’Bannon’s lawsuit claims the NCAA violates antitrust laws because it does not compensate student-athletes for its commercial use of their images and likenesses. The case was tried in 2014 and at the center of the case was a challenge to NCAA’s amateurism rules, which forms the basis of NCAA’s claim that it does not have to compensate student athletes in any significant way, regardless of the financial gains that NCAA stands to make. On appeal to the Ninth Circuit, the Court determined that NCAA’s compensation rules represented an unlawful restraint on trade. On the other hand, the Court determined that amateurism was an important goal, and that any compensation must relate to education. Both sides appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which declined to consider the case and effectively left the Ninth Circuit decision in place.

The NCAA as an Antitrust Violator

While O’Bannon was unsuccessful in overturning the NCAA’s amateurism rules, his case determined “the N.C.A.A.’s compensation rules were an unlawful restraint of trade.” Although the NCAA was quick to claim victory concerning amateurism, the key takeaway from the O’Bannon decision is that the NCAA has now been deemed an antitrust violator. It is this finding that will have a lasting impact on pending litigation against the NCAA.

Increased Scrutiny of NCAA Guidelines

The publicity generated by O’Bannon’s case put the spotlight on NCAA guidelines, and this increased scrutiny of the association revealed deficiencies in the NCAA’s treatment of sports-related concussions, particularly for football players. Although growing evidence of the long-term effects of repeated concussions have been known for decades, it wasn’t until recent years that the NCAA implemented concussion protocols, with current protocols serving as mere suggestions to its affiliated universities. Often, coaching staff, trainers and officials are not properly trained to follow the limited protocols that have now been put in place.

Concussion Related Injuries

Unfortunately for student-athletes, the repeated head trauma sustained during a typical football season can have severe and debilitating long-term effects. While the severity and type of symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, some of the most common symptoms associated with brain trauma include: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), loss of memory, depression, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, and psychosis, among others. Additionally, repeated head trauma sustained while playing football can lead to the development of dementia, Alzheimer’s, PTSD, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s, and bipolar disorder.

Concussion Injury Attorneys

The NCAA is responsible for the wellbeing of student-athletes from more than 1,300 colleges, universities, conferences, and organizations. If you or a loved one have experienced concussions or other brain trauma as a result of a head injury while playing for an NCAA-regulated team, please contact the attorneys at Raizner Slania. The NCAA has an obligation to protect student-athletes – not to be a silent party to their injuries. Our team is leading the college football concussion lawsuits, helping college athletes around the nation recover damages for head injuries suffered during sports play. Call us today for a free consultation.

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