Former NFL Players Accuse League of Ignoring Consequences of Head Injuries

Former quarterback Jim McMahon and six other players accused the National Football League of ignoring the consequences of head injuries to promote on-field violence for the fans.

The NFL has known that players who suffered repeated concussions were likely to experience symptoms of post-traumatic brain injury including headaches, dizziness and memory loss, the group said in a complaint filed Aug. 17 in Philadelphia federal court. The league failed to develop appropriate ways to identify players who were at risk, said the players, who are demanding medical monitoring.

Since the 1970s, the league has “turned a blind eye” to players being coached to tackle, butt and injure opposing players because of an “interest in keeping its fan base excited and interested in the violence of this sport,” according to the complaint.

“We have not seen the complaint but would vigorously contest any claims of this kind,” Greg Aiello, a spokesman for the New York-based NFL, said yesterday in an e-mail.

The group is seeking to represent all former NFL players who sustained concussions or suffered symptoms while in the league and who have developed chronic headaches, dizziness or dementia since retiring. They’re also seeking to cover current players who have suffered head injuries and who haven’t been properly monitored or evaluated.

Falcons, Eagles

In addition to McMahon, the group includes former Atlanta Falcons players Charles Ray Easterling and Wayne Radloff, former Philadelphia Eagles player Gerald Feehery, former Cleveland Browns player Joseph E. Thomas and Michael Thomas Furrey, who played for the Washington Redskins until this season. The group also includes former Dallas Cowboy Steve Kiner.

A similar lawsuit was filed against the NFL last month by 75 former players in California state court in Los Angeles, alleging the league knew as early as the 1920s that concussions were harmful, according to the Associated Press.

The NFL has pledged $1 million to Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy to research how to prevent and treat brain injuries. In February, the league imposed a protocol on team doctors and trainers to assess players who have sustained concussions during games.

Guidelines on Concussions

The league, which began issuing guidelines on concussions in 2007, has paid out $13 million to 151 former players through the NFL’s “88 Plan,” which grants players with brain disease as much as $88,000 a year. Players who are medically diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or ALS would qualify for the benefit “without respect to cause,” Aiello said in an e-mail.

Lawyers for the group said the 88 plan and a neuro- cognitive disability benefit plan introduced this year in a new collective bargaining agreement are inadequate as they put limits on the types of payments, the ages of the players and the annual allowance. Medical monitoring, including genetic testing, is needed, the attorneys said in a statement.

“Establishing a systematic protocol to monitor NFL players and identify players at risk is vital so that current and future players can avoid the long-term debilitating problems their predecessors have been living with everyday,” the lawyers said.

The case is Easterling v. National Football League Inc., 11-05209, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

To contact the reporter on this story: Sophia Pearson in Wilmington, Delaware, at spearson3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Dunn at adunn8@bloomberg.net.

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