Cal Burnton, a litigation partner at Edwards Wildman Palmer in Chicago, suggested to Concussion Policy and the Law/Concussion Litigation Reporter this week that “the disclosure by the National Institute of Health that Junior Seau suffered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a potentially serious threat to football as we know it.
“Seau was a 12-time pro bowler with no history of concussions. The fact that he suffered CTE further buttresses the fears of past and current players, and supports the argument of those who contend football today is simply too dangerous and violent a sport to allow to continue without substantive changes.
“At present, approximately 4000 former players have filed lawsuits against the NFL. There are approximately 12,000 former NFL players, and it is expected that many more may file claims given the findings involving Seau. At present the league’s defense is premised on the argument that the players’ claims are preempted under federal labor law by virtue of various collective bargaining agreements between the NFL and the players. The final briefs are due in court January 28, 2013, and a ruling is expected thereafter. Should the motion be denied, the door will be open to discovery of NFL files and records, as well as those of the equipment manufacturers. The attorneys for the players clearly hope to establish a long pattern of false information and non-disclosure of risks.
“But more significantly, the Seau findings will lead to increased discussion, research and scrutiny of the risks of football. With players at every level getting bigger, stronger and faster, there is concern that the hits suffered by players even without causing concussions may be causing long-term harm. No doubt high school and college football administrators are following the developments concerning player health and asking whether the risks to player health outweigh the benefits of the game.”
Photo by Tim Hipps