The National Hockey League was sued by former players accusing it of concealing the risk of severe brain injuries three months after the National Football League agreed to pay $765 million to settle similar claims.
The NHL ignored the dangers of concussions, wouldn’t address the issue of brain injuries, and refused to amend its rules and procedures to protect players, the ten plaintiffs said in a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Washington.
“The NHL persists in this conduct to date by, among other things, refusing to ban fighting and body checking and by continuing to employ hockey players whose main function is to fight or violently body check players on the other team,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit follows the NFL’s decision in August to settle litigation over concussions by providing compensation to more than 5,000 former players for ailments stemming from head injuries, provide medical monitoring and fund medical research. The NHL complaint seeks medical monitoring and unspecified damages on behalf of all league players.
Concussion risks in sports have come under increasing scrutiny as research shows that some deaths among young football players could have been prevented if those with head injuries had been kept off the field, according to a 2011 study in the medical journal Pediatrics. Professional sports leagues, including the NFL and Major League Baseball, have changed their medical protocols for treating players with head injuries in response to concussion data.
Gary Meagher, a spokesman for the NHL, declined to comment on the complaint. Meagher said he didn’t know for certain whether the case was the first against the league over concussions.
The plaintiffs include Bradley Aitken, a former center for the Pittsburgh Penguins; Darren Banks, who played left wing for the Boston Bruins; Curt Bennett, who played forward for the St. Louis Blues, the New York Rangers and the Atlanta Flames; and Richard Dunn, a defenseman for the Buffalo Sabres and the Calgary Flames. The players said they suffer from injuries including blurred vision, memory loss, post-traumatic headaches, vision problems and cognitive deficit.
The case is Leeman v. National Hockey League, 13-cv-01856, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington)