The NFL isn’t getting the respite from their concussion problems they hoped for after their landmark $765 million settlement with former players over how the league handled brain injuries. Multiple high profile documentary and journalistic efforts have brought the issue to public attention and the outcry has grown over the high rates of brain injuries in the sport and concern over young children playing a game which could potentially result in permanent brain damage or even death.
To make matters worse, the league’s legal woes are also far from over. There are still many details of the settlement being worked out and new lawsuits are filed regularly. Yesterday, it was announced that five former players for the Kansas City Chiefs from between 1987 and 1993 have filed a lawsuit claiming the team hid and even lied about the risks of head injuries. There was no collective bargaining agreement in place within the NFL at the time.
ABC News reports the lawsuit was filed in Jackson County Circuit Court on behalf of former players Leonard Griffin, Chris Martin, Joe Phillips, Alexander Louis Cooper, and Kevin Porter, all of whom played defense for the Chiefs. All of the players have opted out of the $765 million settlement, and their new suit asks for more than $15,000 in actual and punitive damages.
The former players say they are suffering from post-concussion syndrome and latent brain disease stemming from multiple concussions sustained during their time on the team. They all also claim to be suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition which can only be definitively diagnosed post-mortem.
“I would have liked to have the opportunity to know that going back on the field would cause me to have severe disabilities later in life,” Chris Martin said at a news conference. “I didn’t know that. That’s what the lawsuit is about.”
The lawsuit further argues that the Chiefs ignored decades of research about concussions and long-term brain damage. They downplayed the severity of the injury, which they called “getting your bell rung” or a “ding”.
“Every time I would get a head injury I would stay in or come to the side and get smelling salts and go back in,” Martin said. “The pressure was there. If you were first team, you got all the reps.”
Ken McClain, the attorney for the plaintiffs did argue that the notion CTE can only be diagnosed in autopsy is “outdated”.
He said, “That’s an old position. Most of the neurologists we’ve been in discussion with believe most, if not all, professional football players do have CTE to some degree or another.”
While that is true, it is still widely agreed upon that CTE can only be definitively diagnosed post-mortem. There are many test which can be run to indicate the likelihood that a patient has the condition, but the only accepted proof of CTE currently is a test which can only be done during an autopsy. However, it is believed most players do suffer from some level of the condition.