Tag: NFL head injury

Why the NCAA Has Greater Liability than the NFL

Although at the onset, the liability of the NCAA concerning head injuries seems to be similar to that of the NFL, one detail is significant: unlike their professional counterparts, student-athletes do not have the ability to negotiate labor practices. NCAA is supposed to be party protecting the student-athletes, while NFL players have employers and a union to look out for their interests.  This increased responsibility to student athletes means the NCAA is legally responsible in the courts when they fail to protect athlete safety, as they unfortunately have done for so many years.

The crux of the argument for many former student-athletes is the painstaking detail the NCAA goes into for all aspects of sports- from regulating the type of cream cheese athletes are allowed to how recruits can be contacted; the NCAA has a regulation on everything but concussion management. One former player pointed out the lack of NCAA attention when discussing his medical bills. Had a booster paid the medical bills, sanctions would have resulted.

Emails included as evidence in one lawsuit against the NCAA exhibit their lack of concern for head injuries. When asked if concussion recommendations at the youth level exceeded what was required at the college level, the director of health and safety replied, “”Well since we don’t currently require anything all steps are higher than ours.”

From 2004-2009, the NCAA injury reports estimate more than 16,000 football players suffered concussions. In addition to that large number of potentially life-changing injuries, the NCAA provided partial funding for head injury research and knew the results as early as 2003.

The NCAA has a duty to protect student-athletes. The association gains financially each year from these players yet provides nothing after they graduate and resume normal life. The attempt to shift the development of concussion protocols to individual schools is nothing more than an attempt to avoid responsibility.

First Major League Baseball Player Diagnosed with CTE

A year after the suicide of Ryan Freel, tests performed postmortem reveal he was suffering from Stage 2 CTE. Stage 2 is most commonly associated with erratic behavior, depression, and short-term memory impairment.

The diagnosis shifts the perception that only high impact sports such as football and boxing can place the participants at risk of long-term brain injury effects. Freel suffered more than ten concussions while playing in the MLB; concussions sustained while diving after balls and crashing into outfield walls. The brain tissue of people who have CTE displays an abnormal amount of protein called tau. This protein builds up and strangles brain cells in areas that control memory, emotion, and other functions. The first stage of CTE symptoms include headaches and issues related to attention and concentration. Symptoms progress to cognitive impairment and full-blown dementia.

Each year brings a set of players placed on the disabled list after concussions; currently 18 players are on the list for this season. Freel’s family hopes this prompts changes in the sport to prevent future tragedies. They also feel the diagnosis brings closure and explanation of the former player’s actions.

The effects of long-term brain injuries have become a focal point for the NFL and NCAA. Although many sports have been known for their brutality and the injuries a player risks, the crippling, life-altering effects have only been publicized in the past five years or so. Unlike their counterparts in the NFL, NCAA players do not negotiate any labor contracts or qualify for a workers compensation type program. The NCAA’s lack of initiative and protocol has caused damage to thousands of players who left their programs to return to seemingly normal lives, not the million dollar paydays of the NFL.

If you or someone you love experienced head injuries while playing a NCAA sport, please contact the attorneys at Raizner Slania.

NCAA Player with ALS Files Suit; NFL Settlement Addressed Players with Same Condition

A former linebacker for California University of Pennsylvania has filed a personal injury lawsuit against the NCAA for failing to prevent head injuries. The 32-year-old plaintiff has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a rapidly progressing degenerative disease that causes muscle weakness and atrophy leading to the inability to control all voluntary movement. ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and is a terminal illness.

The plaintiff played four seasons for the university after being redshirted as a freshman. His lawyer stated the player remembers three separate events where he was knocked unconscious but returned to play. He cannot remember any of those games.

Although ALS is not fully understood, head trauma and participation in contact sports are potential causes. Many of the symptoms of ALS are similar to the symptoms of CTE; another brain injury common among former NCAA players. Severe headaches and fatigue accompany both diseases.

The NCAA’s lack of protocol concerning head injuries is the crux of the lawsuit; the organization knew since the mid-1980s the long-term, permanent effects of repeated head trauma but failed to act. Only after the NFL made changes to their protocol and management did the NCAA follow suit in 2010.

The connection between the risk of developing a neurological disorder after playing a contact sport such as football was strengthened when the NFL included diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and ALS in their settlement agreement with more than 4,500 former players. Under that agreement, players with cognitive impairment are entitled to receive money from the $675 million injury compensation fund.

The NCAA’s lack of obligation to the safety of the student-athletes whose plays on the field bring in millions of dollars to universities and the organization itself is appalling. Further, their current assertions that plaintiffs such as this have “misdirected” litigation are also a thinly veiled attempt at avoiding responsibility. Although the NFL did not admit guilt when