As widely reported, the NFL is being sued by thousands of former players. In early June, the suits were combined into a master complaint with over 2,000 Plaintiffs suing for concussion related incidents while they were in the NFL. In recent years, the league has been extremely proactive about concussions and taken great precautions to protect current players. The recent suicide of Junior Seau—some say it was related to head trauma from playing football—has brought even greater attention to the plight of former players.
Seau played most of his career for the San Diego Chargers where he started in the 1990s. He retired with the New England Patriots in 2010. His career spanned the era when head trauma was considered “no big deal” and just part of the game. In the current environment, concussions are taken very seriously by the league but the current lawsuit asserts that the league knew of the risks and concealed them from players for a very long time. The lawsuit alleges thatthe league “was aware of the evidence and the risks associated with repetitive traumatic brain injuries virtually at its inception, but deliberately ignored and actively concealed the information from the Plaintiffs and all others who participated in organized football at all levels” as reported by the Los Angeles Times(“Concussion lawsuits to be consolidated; NFL denies culpability” http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-concussion-lawsuits-0120606,0,5009744.story).
If the NFL was aware of the risks and concealed them from its players, it will follow in a long line of organizations that put their employees at risk of great personal injury for the promise of short term gain. Professional football has earned thousands of people millions of dollars. If the league is found liable for the harm players have suffered, millions of dollars may be on the line. Litigation, unfortunately, may be the only way that massive organizations like the NFL will be forced to make safety a priority.