“The NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so,” the league said in a statement on June 7, 2012.
“Any allegation that the NFL sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league’s many actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions.”
The statement came in response to a massive class action that was filed in Philadelphia federal court this morning, where more than 2,000 former NFL players sued the league, accusing it of deliberately concealing evidence that football-related head injuries leads to long-term brain damage, including Alzheimers, Lou Gehrig’s disease, depression and other neurological disorders.
“The NFL, like the sport of boxing, was aware of the health risks associated with repetitive blows producing sub-concussive and concussive results and the fact that some members of the NFL player population were at significant risk of developing long-term brain damage and cognitive decline as a result,” the complaint alleges.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of several tragic suicides of former NFL stars, including legendary linebacker Junior Seau, who shot himself to death on May 2, 2012 at the age of 43. His shocking suicide is reminiscent of the 2011 death of NFL star Dave Duerson, who also died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest at age 50.
In his suicide note, Duerson asked that his brain be donated to a research center because he believed the head trauma he suffered during his professional football career had caused him to suffer irreparable brain damage. Duerson’s final words were: “Please, see that my brain is given to the N.F.L.’s brain bank.”
In April 2012, former Atlanta Falcons star Ray Easterling shot himself to death at his home in Virginia at age 62.
At the time of his suicide, Easterling had been in the midst of a lawsuit against the NFL claiming it had tried to hide the link between football and brain injuries. Easterling had complained of depression, insomnia and dementia for the past 20 years. His widow, Mary Ann Easterling, is among the plaintiffs.
“I wish I could sit down with (NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell) and share with him the pain. It’s not just the spouses, it’s the kids, too,” Mrs. Easterling, 59, told the Associated Press. “Kids don’t understand why Dad is angry all the time.”
Experts say two football players running full speed at 20 miles an hour can generate 1,800 pounds of force in a head-on collision.
“Despite its knowledge and controlling role in governing player conduct on and off the field, the NFL turned a blind eye to the risk and failed to warn and/or impose safety regulations governing this well-recognized health and safety problem,” according to the lawsuit.