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The Game Changer

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Litigation over head injuries in the National Football League moved forward in June 2012 when thousands of football players and their families filed a consolidated complaint in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. The plaintiffs combined more than 80 seprate lawsuits in order to streamline pretrial procedures, including the collection of medical evidence and testimony from experts, defendants and the plaintiffs themselves.

More than 2,000 players and 1,500 family members are claiming the NFL did not do enough to inform them about the risks of head injuries or do enough to protect athletes from those injuries. Specifically, plaintiffs allege the league, team owners and medical personnel charged with treating players' injuries “actively tried to and did conceal the extent of the concussion and brain trauma problem, the risk to Plaintiffs, and the risks to anyone else who played football.” In response, the NFL claims that it has long made player safety and understanding of concussions a priority.

As the suit proceeds, the game of football will itself be on tria as a major cause of traumatic brain injury.

The many complex legal issues the case presents will have to be resolved by the courts. But even before the first lawsuits were filed in 2011, the game changed. Stricter standards for when a player can return to the field following a concussion were put in place, and penalties for illegal hits to the head or neck were stiffened. Regardless of the legal outcome of the case, the public attention it has brought to football player safety could lead to positive changes.


About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.