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Jackie Fedeli
Jackie Fedeli
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The Wide World of Retired Sports Stars: Over 2,400 Lawsuits and Growing

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The 93rd regular season of the National Football League kicks off in a little over a month. It will be interesting to see if the highly publicized death of Junior Seau, and 2,400 pending lawsuits brought against the organization by former players will have any impact on viewership and game attendance.

More retired NFL stars are coming forward every day, and joining the growing list of over 2,000 players claiming that their neurological issues suffered from repeated concussions

In these lawsuits, in which some lawyers are comparing the NFL to big tobacco companies, over 2,400 players, and growing, are blaming the NFL for their neurological issues brought on by repeated head trauma. The former players allege that the League know that repeated concussions could lead to brain damage but kept that information hidden from the athletes.

“The NFL took a page right out of the tobacco industry playbook and engaged in a campaign of fraud and deception, ignoring the risks of traumatic brain injuries in football and deliberately spreading false information to its players.” said Plaintiff’s Co-lead counsel, Sol Weiss.

The setting is very similar: A huge conglomerate, raking in billions of dollars each year, being accused of harmful yet deceptive practices. The Tobacco lawsuits resulted in $206-billion settlement shared across 46 states to help cover smoking related medical costs incurred by the plaintiffs.

Just as the tobacco companies will defend that smokers know the risks associated with smoking, the NFL will defend that professional athletes know the risks that comes along with playing a heavy contact sport for a living.

One of the most recent additions to the players defensive line is a report published in Health Day containing the results of tests performed on a group of 34 retired NFL stars. Over 40% of these men suffered from some type of neurological issues such as depression or dementia. Junior Seau tragically died this past may of self inflicted gun-shot wound. The act of suicide is often associated with depression: a way out for a depressed individual who sees no other way out. Those close to Seau were stunned as he exhibited no signs of depression. Why would a sane man with no history of depression commit the ultimate act of desperation? Was there something going on in his brain that mimicked the signs of depression? A surprising find in the study was that eight former players that were found to have depression exhibited no mood issues such as sadness that are typically associated with the condition.

An estimated 300,000 sports-related concussions occur in the United States each year, even with the NFL doing more to educate players of the risks and the dangers associated with professional football. Are these young men doomed to suffer the same fate of our 2,000 Plus Plaintiffs? Will the end result of these lawsuits bring about a change in safety regulations in one of the most watched sports on television?

It will be interesting to watch as the season progresses and the litigation progresses if one will effect the other.