A group of 75 NFL players has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles, claiming that the NFL knew about the effects concussions had on players since the 1920s. That's right -- since Red Grange and George Halas were playing for the Bears. From TMZ:
According to the lawsuit, filed today in L.A. County Superior Court and obtained by TMZ, the players and their wives claim, "The NFL knew as early as the 1920's of the harmful effects on a player's brain of concussions; however, until June of 2010 they concealed these facts from coaches, trainers, players and the public." ... The suit claims the NFL commissioned a study in 1994, titled "NFL Committee on Mild Traumatic Brain Injury" and published a report in 2004, concluding there was "no evidence of worsening injury or chronic cumulative effects" from multiple concussions.
What's ridiculous about the "no evidence of worsening injury or chronic cumulative effects" statement is that by 2004, there were three high-profile cases of players leaving the game because of a build-up of concussions.
Merrill Hoge, who played the final year of his career in Chicago; Chargers QB Stan Humphries; and Cowboys QB and Hall-of-Famer Troy Aikman all had their careers ended by concussions. Even anecdotal evidence is some evidence.
This is an issue that hits particularly close to home in Chicago. In a city that still treats the 1985 team as the toast of the town, we were particularly shocked when one of those players took his own life.
Dave Duerson knew something was wrong with his mind and asked his family to include his brain in an ongoing study of football players at Boston University before pointing a gun at his chest. His suspicions were right. He had suffered from the effects of chronic traumatic encepalopathy, the condition that happens after repeated blows to the head.
The report claims that the NFL has known since the 1920s, but the tangible dates given are 1994 and 2004. This study started in 1994, one year after Duerson's playing career ended. But seeing that the study came out in 2004, a protocol encouraging vigilance for concussions and mandatory games off for players who were injured could have saved the careers of Bears player Hunter Hillenmeyer, who started his career with the Bears in 2003. Hillenmeyer took off most of last season because of concussions.
A lawsuit like this could turn the NFL on its head, much as tobacco lawsuits completely changed that industry and forced unprecedented judgments against cigarette companies. Now, the group of players will have to prove the NFL knew what its players were doing to their brains, and did nothing about it.