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Former football players sue NFL for brain injuries

Seventy-five former professional football players have sued the National Football League in a California court, alleging that the league negligently ignored and willfully concealed information regarding the potential long-term impact of multiple concussions and other head injuries on football players. The lawsuit is the first of its kind, and it comes at a time when lawmakers and the public alike have been increasingly focused on the effects of head and brain injuries in NFL players.

In 1994, the NFL created a medical committee on concussions. For more than a decade, the commission insisted that head injuries posed no long-term threat to football players, going so far as to publish pamphlets and posters claiming as such and hanging them in player locker rooms. However, in 2009, members of a Congressional committee took notice, chastising the NFL for its failure to properly warn players of the potential harm that can come from multiple concussions.

Following its Congressional reprimand, the NFL took action, warning players about the long-term effects of head injuries. Now, any player who is suspected of a concussion must be removed from the game or practice for the remainder of that day, and may return to play only after an independent medical practitioner authorizes him to do so.

However, the plaintiffs, most of whom played football in the 1980s, say the NFL's change of heart came too late for them. They allege that the improper diagnosis and treatment of their concussions by team doctors led to short-term memory loss, headaches, vision problems, depression, and other ailments. Riddell, which manufactures football helmets, was also named as a defendant in the personal injury lawsuit.

Source: New York Times, "Concussion Treatment Cited in Suit Against N.F.L.," Ken Belson and Alan Schwarz, 20 July 2011

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