Former NFL Players: League Concealed Long-Term Effect of Head Impacts

Former NFL Players: League Concealed Long-Term Effect of Head Impacts

Master complaint filed by former players alleges NFL deliberately ignored and concealed risks of repetitive traumatic brain injuries

PHILADELPHIA, June 7, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The master complaint in the multidistrict litigation against the National Football League (NFL) was filed today on behalf of all former players, alleging that the NFL had a duty to acknowledge and address the risks of neurological injury, but instead deliberately and fraudulently ignored and concealed this information from its players. This master complaint unifies more than 80 lawsuits filed against the NFL by more than 2,000 players nationwide to date.

"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," said Mary Ann Easterling, widow of former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling who committed suicide in April after suffering for years from dementia. "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."

Scientific evidence dating back to the 1920s has consistently linked repetitive concussive and sub-concussive impacts to long-term neurological problems.  The complaint alleges that even though the NFL had a duty to acknowledge and address the risks of neurological injury in order to protect its workforce, the League instead deliberately ignored and concealed this information from NFL players.  These allegations include:

  • As far back as the 1920s, scientific evidence linked head impacts to neurological conditions.  In 1928, the Journal of the American Medical Association published the "Martland study," which was the first to link "mild concussions" to brain disease.
  • After years of ignoring the medical evidence, in 1994, the NFL formed a committee to study the issue of head injury in the NFL. The committee published 16 papers between 2003 and 2009 contradicting the widely accepted opinion of the medical community that concussions – even seemingly mild ones – could permanently damage the brain and cause long-term negative health consequences.
  • The NFL's findings, which it promoted in public statements and even in a pamphlet given to players, were false and have been discredited by the scientific and medical communities.  Not even the NFL's current doctors will stand behind those findings.
  • Not a single neuropathologist (a doctor who studies diseases of the brain and nervous systems) was appointed to the committee by the NFL; instead, it was filled primarily with NFL or team paid staff who conducted no independent research as part of their investigation.
  • Completely contrary to public findings and conclusions, the NFL's committee did not find concussions to be of significant concern and felt it appropriate for players suffering a concussion to continue playing football during the same game or practice in which one was suffered.
  • A 2000 survey of 1,090 former NFL players found that more than 60 percent had suffered at least one concussion, and 26 percent had suffered 3 or more during their careers.  Those who had sustained concussions reported more problems with memory, concentration, speech impediments, headaches, and other neurological problems than those who had not been concussed.

"The NFL must open its eyes to the consequences of its actions," said Kevin Turner, a former running back for the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles who has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's 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." 

Many former NFL players who suffered concussions and other brain injuries now experience conditions such as dementia, depression, reduced cognitive ability, sleeplessness, early-onset Alzheimer's, and a debilitating and latent disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).  Other players are worried about their futures and the uncertainty of whether they too will develop severe neurological disease and the impact it will have on their families.  The former players are seeking recourse that includes a Court-supervised, NFL-funded medical monitoring program, which will facilitate the diagnosis and adequate treatment of former players for neurodegenerative diseases.

"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 Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss, co-lead counsels for the former NFL players.  "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."

NFL Head Injury Litigation Press Teleconference 11:30 am EDT Thursday 6/7 For dial-in information please e-mail:

CONTACT: Ray De Lorenzi, DJ Carella

SOURCE Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss, co-lead counsels for the former NFL players

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