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February 29, 2012

Concussion Lawsuits Change NFL

In August, I commented on a lawsuit against the NFL involving 75 former players suing the league for concealing known information about the harmful effects of concussions.

There are now 18 concussion-related lawsuits against the NFL involving 658 retired players.

Last week, the Chicago Tribune commented on one of the latest developments. Former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson committed suicide last month after sustaining a number of concussions in his career. His family is suing the NFL.The lawsuit claims the NFL knew that Duerson’s concussions could result in the type of brain damage that leads to suicide. But the NFL chose not to share this information with Duerson.

A PBS blog post reports that Duerson chose to end his life with a gunshot to the heart in order to preserve his brain for further study. His suicide note asks that his brain be given to the NFL’s brain bank. His brain has since been studied and found to have advanced brain damage called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The condition is associated with behavioural and personality changes.

The article in the Chicago Tribune says the same violent collisions that made the NFL a $9.5 billion business might also lead to its downfall. It goes on to say that “Players have to stop believing that it’s more important to be able to finish a game at the age of 25 than it is to be able to finish a crossword puzzle at the age of 45.

Retired NFL superstar Troy Aikman has been talking about concussions in the NFL. His own career ended prematurely because of the 10 concussions he suffered. Aikman says if he had a son, he might not encourage him to play football.

“The long-term viability is somewhat in question as far as what this game is going to look like 20 years from now,”said Aikman.

Duerson’s family hopes the lawsuit will force the NFL to raise awareness about the potentially fatal effects of concussions. They hope that this will lead to new policies that will trickle down to youth sports reducing the number and severity of concussions.

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