Earlier this month the NFL, who claims to be the leader of concussion awareness, gave $30 million to the National Institute of Health. The grant will support the study of neurological diseases, a hot topic at the heart of the NFL concussion litigation. Paul Anderson, the author of nflconcussionlitigation.com, draws attention to the timing of the NFL’s generous contribution as a push to recoup positive public opinion.
The public is becoming more aware of the tragedies (neurological diseases, neurocognitive disorders, suicide, etc.) that former players and their families have been through that are caused by/related to/ associated with brain injuries. The exact causal relationship is not fully understood by the medical field, but studies and reports have had many findings on the effects and consequences. A US News article summarizes a study by the American Academy of Neurology, which concluded that five year veterans are three times more likely to die from a neurological disease than the general public. For more general understanding see, the study titled Neurodegenerative causes of death among retired National Football League Players. It has also been noted that the National Institute of Health is currently examining the late Junior Seau’s brain. Medical personnel have concluded Seau’s death was a suicide. Many of the latest findings support some of the allegations claimed by players in the ongoing concussion litigation.
Among other things in the recent litigation, the NFL has been accused of negligence and misrepresentation regarding their knowledge about the risks, consequences, and effects of concussions. Despite the medical findings, the biggest struggle for the players will be the ability to determine that the brain trauma experienced, which is correlated to the neurological damage, was suffered during their NFL careers and not during college or high school.
The culture, awareness, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and understanding of concussions are changing for the better of athletes everywhere. It will be interesting to see the new procedures and standards implemented and where the liability will land. The issues being litigated in the player concussion case will not only give compensation to players, but also help define the duties held by coaches, trainers, doctors, the team, and the league. The scope of the duties will play a large role in how procedures are set, and most importantly who will hold the bulk of the liability going forward. This will have significant impact on the business aspect of the NFL and other major sports and their participating parties regarding insurance coverage and risk exposure.