Athletes in Court

Concussions Lead to Lawsuits against NCAA for College Athletes

Posted in Football, NCAA

According to a recent article in The New York Times, heavy hitting action in college sports has led to a class action lawsuit against the NCAA. In the suit, three former college football players and one soccer player allege the organization failed to do enough to raise awareness for or treat brain injuries in athletes.

The legal action comes after five years of media attention surrounding various brain injuries in contact sports. The class action follows in the footsteps of other lawsuits filed this year by dozens of former NFL players who claim the league failed to properly deal with the issue of brain trauma.

The NFL has agreed to pay for the care of some of the most seriously damaged of its former players after public and Congressional pressure forced the league to acknowledge the gravity of the issue. However, damage did not begin in the NFL; instead, the players were absorbing damaging blows to the brain since they were children. Concussion experts say it’s impossible to point to one or two big hits as the problem when high-level athletes have been playing the sport for years and years.

Evidence of such childhood injury is rampant:

-        Emergency room visits by children and adolescents for brain injuries jumped 60 percent over the past eight years, according to a recently issued report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Football ranks at the top for head injuries among high school males; soccer among females.

-        Just last month, a 16-year-old high school football player in New York died from a brain hemorrhage during a game. That death marked the 13th such brain injury-related death on a football field since 2005.

-        According to the Sports Concussion Institute in Los Angeles, between 1.6 million and 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year in the United States, most often in organized high school sports.

The NCAA says the current lawsuit is “misguided” and says in a statement: “The NCAA has great compassion for student-athletes who are injured as a result of training, practice, or competition, which fuels our desire to make student-athlete safety a top priority.”

NCAA general counsel and vice president for legal affairs describes the class action suit as being “wholly without merit.” Mr. Remy instead said that the NCAA has been at the forefront of the science of safety. Remy argues that the suit is purely motivated by money: “The N.C.A.A. is an attractive target for opportunistic plaintiffs’ class-action lawyers,” adding, “To date, none of these cases have been proven to have merit.”

Not in agreement that the suit is based on the hopes of financial windfall for plaintiff’s attorneys, the lead lawyer instead says the goal is to force the NCAA to take the issue seriously. The objective is to have the organization begin policing schools and ensure that such injuries do not continue to occur.

The suit does mention money to the extent that the NCAA profits annually to the tune of $750 million, more than enough to pay for improved medical care for the players risking their lives. The lead attorney believes that it might take an economic sting to get the organization’s attention: “And it could be that when they are hurt economically, that’s what it will take to take these injuries seriously.”

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