There was an interesting editorial by Joe Nocera of the New York Times on August 11, 2015 as to the NFL’s settlement with thousands of its ex-players and their families of a class action lawsuit alleging that the NFL knew of, and failed to disclose, the serious long terms effects and cognitive impairment caused by repeated concussions. Essentially, Nocera concludes that despite the amount of the settlement, and the conditions it covers, it is woefully inadequate.
One of the well-known victims of the repeated concussions, which leads to a condition known as “CTE”, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, was Junior Seau, a Hall of Fame linebacker who played for several NFL teams including the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots. Seau, who committed suicide at the age of 43 three years ago, shot himself in the chest so that his brain could be studied by the National Institutes of Health, as well as the Boston University CTE Center. Dave Duerson, a tremendous defensive back for the Chicago Bears and New York Giants, was another ex-player who intentionally shot himself in the chest so that his brain could be studied, so convinced was he that the loss of memory and cognitive functioning he was suffering from were caused by the effects of repeated concussions and the devastating effects of CTE. This neurodegenerative disease leads to an accumulation of a sticky substance known as “tau”, which interferes with brain function, and results in a number of serious debilitating effects, including mood swings, depression, headaches, poor impulse control, loss of memory, dementia, and in some cases, Alzheimer’s Disease, ALS, or Parkinson’s Disease.
The lawsuit by the former players and their families, as well as approximately 200 players who “opted out” of the class action to bring their own claims, including the family of Junior Seau, notes that the NFL “held itself out as the guardian and authority on the issue of player safety”, but in fact knew of the risks of CTE and other neurological conditions from repeated concussions and kept this knowledge from the players, and did not change league regulations to minimize the risk of concussions.