Father sues ex-wife to keep son from playing football after concussions


John Orsini is suing his ex-wife to protect his son from any more concussions.

John Orsini
Source: Ross Mantle/The New York Times

Traumatic brain injuries have already been the center of several major legal cases against groups like the NFL, NCAA, and major helmet manufacturers, but now they are entering a new legal arena – custody disputes.

A father, John Orsini, is suing his ex-wife to prevent his youngest son from continuing to play football following multiple concussions. Orsini became particularly concerned after his son, Antonio, suffered a third brain injury. Citing medical research, John believes any more brain injuries could lead to serious and permanent brain damage.

“I’m trying to save his future. I’m trying to save his life,” the father said.

John Orsini and his ex-wife, Janice, have been divorced since 2004 and share joint custody of Antonio. Throughout that time, football has been a major part of the Orsini family. Antonio began playing at the early age of 5 and his older brother currently plays for Cleveland’s Case Western University.

Both Antonio and his mother argue he should be allowed to keep playing because he understands and accepts the risks.

In a statement sent to their local CBS station, KDKA, a lawyer representing Antonio and his mother said:

“The mother and her 17-year-old son have reasonably relied upon the input and opinions of his treating physicians and medical providers, and have considered the state mandated safety and concussion protocols followed by the school district, in deciding whether it was appropriate for him to continue to participate in football.”

The situation has deteriorated to the point that Antonio is no longer speaking to his father.

This might seem like an extreme example, but The New York Times reports cases like this are actually popping up all over the country as families grapple with how to handle the risks carried by concussions in popular sports.

Joe Cordell, founder of Cordell & Cordell, a firm specializing in divorce law, told The Times that approximately a third of the 270 lawyers at his firm reported seeing an increase in custody battles involving childhood involvement in football. The firm is spread across 40 states, but the majority of the disputes come from “heavy football states” such as Texas, Ohio, and Oklahoma.

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