Major Shakeups In NFL Concussion Litigation
The past week has seen some pretty big shakeups in the lawsuits against the NFL by former players. Over 4,000 former athletes have filed lawsuits related to traumatic brain injury, accusing the NFL of hiding the risks from the players and glorifying the violence on the field.
One of the most talked about suits against the NFL is that of Junior Seau, the Pro Bowler who played for 20 years in the NFL before retiring in 2009. Last year, he committed suicide at the age of 43. He had documented cases of traumatic brain injury, and was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy after his death.
His children filed the lawsuit in California, stating that they believe his brain injuries directly contributed to his death. Last week his lawsuit was consolidated with other NFL litigation regarding traumatic brain injury, just one week before a key hearing in Philadelphia. The former athletes and their families will be fighting to keep their suit in federal court, as the league pushes for the matter to be dealt with in arbitration, under terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
While Seau’s lawsuit is combined with others, one former player has dropped his lawsuit, coincidentally as many report he is close to signing a deal to join the Redskins. Pat White joined the many other players rushing to sue the league for head injuries six months ago, but Tuesday he voluntarily dismissed his lawsuit in a three-page filing. White cited no reason for the dismissal.
The 27-year-old previously had a short history in the NFL playing for the Dolphins. He then played in the UFL for a year before leaving. He has also tried his hand at baseball. White’s situation is highly unusual, and likely he was either attempting to unrightfully cash in on the real struggle of many of his former and likely future teammates, or White was coerced to withdraw his suit to return to the league.
While it is entirely possible White was coerced, it sadly seems more likely his claim was less than legitimate, seeing as he had a fairly short career and claimed he was suffering “permanent injuries” such as cognitive problems and memory loss, yet seems to feel fit to return to the field.
On the other hand, it seems odd that any NFL team would be eyeing a retired and unremarkable player. But, at least one other player has returned to the NFL despite pending legislation. In January, the Seahawks signed Patrick Chukwurah for their playoff game against the falcons, and according to the Washington Times, his case has yet to be withdrawn.
There are always those who will attempt to take advantage of terrible situations for their own personal gain, but hopefully no one is disparaged by the possibility that White’s now dismissed suit wasn’t legitimate. The number of current and former players with permanent damage is well documented, and their cases have the right to be heard.