PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (AFP) –
A master complaint unifying more than 80 lawsuits by over 2,000 National Football League players was filed Thursday accusing the NFL of ignoring and concealing the risk of brain injury.
The complaint claims the NFL failed in a duty to acknowledge and address the risks of repetitive traumatic brain injuries but instead deliberately hid and ignored information from players.
Mary Ann Easterling, the widow of ex-Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, said she hopes to prevent future suffering by the loved ones of NFL players after her husband committed suicide in April following years of dementia.
“I firmly believe the NFL could have and should have done more to protect Ray. That’s why I am seeking to hold the NFL accountable,” she said.
“Having lived through Ray’s struggle, I desperately hope and pray others can be spared the pain and suffering we have endured and still endure every day.”
The NFL responded in a statement saying there was never any intent by the league to mislead players about health risks.
“The NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so,” the statement said.
“Any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league’s actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions.”
Attorneys for the former NFL players, whose lawsuits were filed in various jurisdictions across the United States, said scientific evidence since the 1920s indicated repeated concussions and hard impacts were linked to long-term neurological damage.
They claim the NFL ignored medical evidence for years, then created a committee that published finding contradicting the opinions of the majority of the medical community that even mild concussions could cause permanent brain damage.
The suit claims the NFL’s findings were false and later discredited but backed the NFL idea that a player who suffered a concussion could continue playing in the same game or practice in which the injury was sustained.
“The NFL must open its eyes to the consequences of its actions,” said former New England and Philadelphia running back Kevin Turner, who has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as motor neuron disease.
“The NFL has the power not only to give former players the care they deserve, but also to ensure that future generations of football players do not suffer the way that many in my generation have.”
A cited survey of 1,090 NFL players found more than 60 percent had suffered concussions and 26 percent had suffered three or more and those with such head injuries had more neurological problems than other players.
“Instead of protecting the health of its players, the NFL’s response to this epidemic of brain injuries was to engage in a campaign of deceit and deception, actively concealing the risks players faced from repetitive impacts,” said the former NFL players’ lawyers, Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss.
“This case is about providing security and care to former NFL players who have suffered these devastating neurologic injuries, and making the game safer for generations to come.”