(Image Source: Stack.com)
BY SCOTT MALONE
ANCHOR CHRISTINA HARTMAN
New legal documents and medical records have revealed what some say is the smoking gun in the NFL’s ongoing lawsuit with former players over whether repeated concussions while playing in the league led to chronic brain damage afterwards. Here’s ESPN
“Today exclusively, documentation that while the NFL was denying the link between concussions and long-term risks, it embraced that very link in awarding disability benefits to several players.”
show the league’s retirement board paid at least $2 million in disability benefits to at least three former players in the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s after concluding that football caused their crippling brain injuries. The documents come from the 1999 disability claim of Hall of Fame center Mike Webster - who played 17 seasons in the league.
That year, the NFL’s retirement board determined that repeated hits to the head left Webster totally and permanently disabled, and the five doctors who inspected him described Webster as childlike and showing signs of dementia. (Via PBS
Webster died in 2002, and all five of those doctors blamed his NFL career for his severe health problems. A federal judge ordered the league to pay Webster’s family $1.8 million in 2005.
That same year, the NFL published the 10th installment of its research on concussions in professional football in the journal Neurosurgery
. The paper asserted that chronic brain injury “has never been reported in American football players.”
And, “Professional football players do not sustain frequent repetitive blows to the brain on a regular basis.”
points out the new information comes at a bad time for the NFL.
“Thousands of retired players filed suit against the league, claiming the NFL hid information linking football-related head injuries to permanent brain damage. A claim that the league contests.”
spoke with the lawyer who represented Webster in his disability case who said -- this evidence is the smoking gun that will put the NFL on the hot seat.
“If the NFL takes the position that they didn’t know or weren’t armed with evidence that concussions can cause total disability -- permanent disability, permanent brain injury -- in 1999, that evidence trumps anything they say.”
But as a writer for Yahoo! Sports
points out: the NFL has made moves to create more awareness of head injuries by expanding the definition of a defenseless player, and has handed out steep fines and even suspensions to players who deliver hits targeting their opponents above the shoulders.
A writer for Fox Sports
says the league made the changes to protect itself - not the players, and there is no fix for the concussion conundrum.
“You can’t help but feel that the only reason the NFL has made significant changes when it comes to concussions is because [of the lawsuit by the former players]. The truth is, there is no way of solving this problem. It will never go away, mostly because of the roughness of the game.”
So far, the league has motioned to have the players’ lawsuits dismissed from court. It argues they address labor issues, and thus should be handled by the collective bargaining agreement - not the legal system.