The National Football League (NFL) will pay out more than $500 million to former players due to its negligent handling of brain injuries to players. The NFL agreed to settle the case, which claimed the league put players at the unnecessary and dangerous risk of multiple concussions, leading to long-term cognitive disabilities and conditions.
The devastating and irreversible conditions from which former players suffer include:
- Early onset Alzheimer’s disease
- Early onset Parkinson’s disease
- Early onset dementia
- Severe depression and mental disorders
- Fatal chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)
This season, the league claimed that it took additional steps to try to prevent any further brain injury claims, though these steps seemed to result in more confusion than player protections.
New Tackling Rules
The NFL instituted a new Use of Helmet rule for the 2018 season, disallowing any players from using a lowered helmet to contact another player. In theory, this rule would prevent players from directly hitting their heads into others during the game, limiting head and brain trauma. In reality, however, players claim that the new rule may prove impossible and even dangerous to follow.
When a player tackles another, helmets will often make contact whether they mean to or not. If players are too afraid of violating the new rule, they may focus on lower body tackles, causing more severe and unnecessary knee and leg injuries. Furthermore, new rules take adjustment periods for both players and officials. Some players responded they would definitely violate the rule at some point, even if unintentionally, which puts those not expecting such helmet tackles at risk of unexpected hits. We will see whether this new rule works to protect players or creates additional risks.
The NFL also recently focused on the effectiveness of the league-approved helmets in protecting players from serious brain injuries. A study resulted in the banning of 10 different helmet models, which even star players such as Tom Brady commonly wore. Players who wore the unsafe helmets for years may have the right to bring products liability claims if they suffered brain damage as a result of the insufficient protection.
In addition, some players began wearing helmets with new technology, called the safest helmets when it comes to traumatic brain injury protection. The problem with new helmet technology—or any new product—is that it could take time to realize the risks that still exist. Players may begin wearing these helmets, believing they have adequate protection, when they actually continue to risk severe injuries. This could also lead to coaches leaving players wearing these helmets in a game after blows to the head, as they falsely believe there is no risk of a brain injury. Such a situation can lead to inadequate treatment of brain injuries and an increased risk of subsequent life-threatening brain injuries.
Younger Players Face Risks, Too
While these issues play out with great publicity at the NFL level, college, high-school, and grade-school football players can also sustain concussions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that every year, about 135,000 athletes between five and 18 years old receive emergency room treatment for a sports-related concussion. The CDC, however, estimates that as many as 3.8 million athletes suffer from concussions annually, but don’t get treatment. The number of sports-related concussions among youth ages 14 to 19 tripled between 1997 and 2007. The biggest source of sports-related brain injuries is football.
Discuss Your Disabilities With Our Los Angeles Brain Injury Lawyers
The attorneys at Greene, Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, recognize the risks of severe and disabling brain injuries for athletes of all ages. If your child suffered a life-changing and permanent traumatic brain injury, please call our office at (310) 576-1200 or contact us online to discuss your legal options for free today.