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NFL players: League did not protect their brains from injury

Seven former National Football League players have filed suit against the NFL over concussions sustained while they played football professionally. The case is unique in that it seeks class action status which, if granted, would make it the first class action suit of its kind.

The players accuse the league of training them to lead with their heads when making tackles, behavior which makes concussions and other head and spinal cord-related injuries that much more likely. The players contend the league knew of the dangers of this practice and deliberately concealed those dangers from players.

The players also accuse the NFL not only of failing to properly treat concussions at the time of injury, but also of concealing from players the links between football and brain injuries. Players involved in this lawsuit have experienced headaches, dizziness and dementia. One player is in danger of losing his home because of health-related financial problems.

A cadre of retired players filed the suit in Philadelphia in July, alleging the league knew of the harmful effects of brain injuries sustained during football as early as the 1920s, but actively deceived players, coaches, trainers and the general public until June 2010.

If the class is approved, the court will have to determine who fits in the class. Players from the last four decades who have suffered brain injuries are all potential plaintiffs. Much work is yet to be done to determine the extent of this class.

An NFL spokesman has denied that the league had even received the most recent lawsuit, but indicated the league will fight any such claims "vigorously." In 2009, the NFL began encouraging players and their families to cooperate with a university in Boston that is seeking to perform autopsies on the brains of former athletes. The NFL has also adopted new concussion guidelines and requires that an independent doctor determine when a player may return.

Source: Forbes, "7 former players sue NFL in Pa. over concussions," Maryclaire Dale, Aug. 19, 2011

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