Former NFL running backs, Jamal Lewis and Dorsey Levens, have filed a lawsuit against the league, citing it didn’t do enough to protect its players from concussions.
Fulton Kuykendall and Ryan Stewart also filed the suit against the NFL and NFL Properties LLC in a U.S. District Court in Atlanta. The players are suing over brain injuries, which they say left them struggling with medical problems years after they stopped playing football.
According to the players, the NFL knew about the potential for concussions to harm its players since the 1920s, but only made the information public last year. They accuse the NFL of using a committee of “hand-picked” physicians to misrepresent evidence of the effects of head trauma, particularly concussions.
“Despite overwhelming medical evidence…the NFL not only failed to take effective action in an attempt to protect players from suffering, but failed to inform players of the true risks associated with concussions,” player statements said.
The four players said they suffer from symptoms, including headaches, sleeplessness and dementia and are seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.
The lawsuit states that the NFL was the only league that returned players to games too soon after concussions.
“While athletes in other professional sports who had suffered concussions were being effectively shut down for long periods of time of full seasons, NFL protocol was to return players who had suffered concussions to the very game in which the injury occurred,” the lawsuit says.
Studies show that many NFL players suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a dementia like brain disease that affects athletes exposed to repeated brain trauma, according to CNN.
In a Boston University study, CTE was found in the brains of 14 of 15 former NFL players. The common factors were repeated concussions and sub-concussive blows to the head.
Attorney, Mike McGlamry says that it could be difficult to target the NFL, because most players voluntarily engaged in similar conduct while playing in high school and college, according to sources.
The NFL defends itself, saying that it has long made the safety of its players a priority.
“Any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit,” NFL officials told AP. “It stands in contrast to the league’s actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions.”
NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell has in fact recently implemented tough rules regarding head injuries in the NFL.
Shots to the head of players receive 15-yard personal foul penalties and players are subject to fines, suspensions and ejection for making these illegal hits. Many current players, mainly on defense protest the rules, put in place to protect players, which makes brings a tone of irony to this suit.
Players like Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, James Harrison, had countless run-ins with the commissioner over hits that were directed in the head area of opponents. In addition to being fined over $100,000 in 2010, this year Harrison became the first player ever to be suspended for a hit to the head. Many other Steelers defenders, like Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark have received similar punishment for illegal hits.
In a Thursday night matchup against the Cleveland Browns, Harrison hit quarterback, Colt McCoy in the facemask with the crown of his helmet, concussing the quarterback. Colt McCoy returned the game, but hasn’t played since because of concussion-like symptoms. McCoy’s father verbally blasted Brown’s officials for letting McCoy return to the game with a concussion. The Browns claim McCoy didn’t show concussion symptoms at the time.
Incidents like this have led to recent policies in the NFL that include neurology experts being on NFL sidelines to properly test for concussions. Just last year, the league mandated that players who suffer concussions must sit out the following game.