More former NFL football players are suing the league and helmet maker
Riddell for personal injury and products liability. The first complaint,
filed in California, was submitted by 75 ex-pro players who claimed the
National Football League concealed the head injury risks involved in playing
The plaintiffs of both lawsuits are accusing the NFL of failing until last year to let the athletes and the public know that players risked serious injury from concussions even though the league has known this information since the 1920′s. Last year, the NFL acknowledged that concussions sustained during the game can result in brain injury symptoms, including memory loss and dementia.
As the official maker of helmets for professional football players, Riddell Sports Group is being sued for products liability. The plaintiffs don’t believe that the helmets were made to protect from concussions, even though it is well-known that severe blows to the head can happen during football games. The plaintiffs also believe that the companies have been well aware of the damage that brain injuries cause in the long run.
Even in 2000, a study that surveyed over 1,090 ex-NFL players and noted that more than 60% had sustained at least one concussion while playing (26% had suffered at least three concussions) found that players who suffered this type of head injury later experienced more problems with concentration, memory, speech, and neurological challenges, as well as suffered from more headaches. A concussion is a type of brain injury.
In 2007, the study from the University of North Carolina’s Center for the Study of Retired Athletes found that of the nearly 600 ex-NFL players who sustained at least three concussions while playing the game, 20% of them suffered from depression–a rate that is 3 times greater than for players who never had a concussion.
In 2009, the NFL commissioned a study finding that ex-pro football players seemed more prone to developing memory-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s, than the general population. The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research conducted the study.
As for the making of football helmets, the standard has not changed in more than three decades. If Riddell and other helmet manufacturers (football isn’t just played by professionals) are not doing enough to create helmets that protect players from concussions even though they know this type of injury is a possible risk, then they could be held liable for products liability.
Last year, Rutgers player Eric LeGrand became paralyzed from the neck down when his helmet struck an opposing player’s shoulder. Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson and Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson suffered head injuries when their helmets collided. If these helmets could/should have been tougher, the players may have grounds for filing personal injury lawsuits.
In January, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission accusing Riddell, which also makes football helmets for high school athletes and younger kids, and Shutt Sports of engaging in “misleading marketing” that made their helmets appear more safe. Udall wants the Consumer Product Safety Commission to make a decision on whether the current helmet safety standards are enough to protect younger football players.
Ex-players hit NFL, Riddell with lawsuit, The News Tribune, July 21, 2011
Udall Seeks Investigation of Misleading Football Helmet Safety Claims, Tom Udall, January 4, 2011
Rutgers Player Is Paralyzed Below the Neck, NY Times, October 17, 2010
The Problem with Football: How to Make It Safer, Time, January 28, 2010
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Defective Clothing Can Cause Serious Injuries, Product Liability Law Blog, June 19, 2008
Our products liability law firm represents clients that have sustained traumatic brain injuries and other catastrophic injuries because of defective products.