NCAA Denies Claims in Head Injury Suit by Ex-Collegiate Athletes

The National Collegiate Athletic Association denied claims in a lawsuit filed by former college football players who accuse it of profiting from athletes while neglecting those who suffer concussions.

The response, filed yesterday in federal court in Chicago, addresses claims raised in a class-action lawsuit brought by 25-year-old Adrian Arrington, a former football player for Eastern Illinois University. Where it doesn’t deny the allegations, the NCAA says it is “without knowledge” of the practices that Arrington and other athletes say show a failure to enforce safety measures to protect players from head injuries.

The NCAA said in the court filing that it earned revenue of $749.8 million in the 2009-2010 season, and that it doesn’t pay salaries to student-athletes. The organization also responded to arguments that it doesn’t require its member institutions to educate athletes about reporting concussions and their symptoms.

“Each member institution is responsible for protecting the health of its student-athletes,” according to the filing. The NCAA said that “for decades it has provided appropriate information and guidance on concussions to its member institutions” and encourages those schools to educate athletes about “symptoms associated with concussions.”

Wide Receiver

In one of the cases consolidated in the Chicago court, former University of Central Arkansas wide receiver Derek K. Owens and former Northwestern University offensive lineman Alex Rucks allege the NCAA turned a blind eye to coaches who teach players to use their heads for tackling, failed to establish a system for screening head injuries and shirked its financial obligations to injured student athletes.

The lawsuits seek to represent all ex-student football players who sustained concussions and developed chronic headaches, dizziness and mental or physical problems and incurred doctor bills for the illnesses after college.

The complaints seek a court order barring coaching of tackling methods that can cause head injuries and establishing a policy for when players can return to play after a head injury. It also asks for a program to medically monitor ex-players and unspecified damages.

The cases are Arrington v. NCAA, 11-6356, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago), and Owens v. NCAA, 11-6816, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

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