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NCAA and University Sued in Class Action Over Football Brain Injuries

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Football Player Tumbling on Head

Is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) responsible for not adequately warning college football players about brain injuries? Can a class action successfully address this? This class action brings suit against the NCAA as well as the University of La Verne (ULV) by a former college athlete who played for ULV from 1992-1994.

The class for this action is all individuals who took part in ULV’s football program between 1971 and 2010.

The complaint says, “During the course of a college football season, athletes absorb more than 1,000 impacts greater than 10 Gs and, worse, yet, the majority of football-related hits to the head exceed 20 Gs, with some approaching 100 Gs.” 

Interestingly, the complaint claims that, while spinal fluid cushions the brain during normal activities, “relatively minor impact—including not only direct blows to the head, but also blows to the body and movements that cause the neck to whiplash—can more the brain enough to press through the spinal fluid, knock against the inside of the skill, and cause concussions.”

These repetitive impacts can cause concussions or traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) that increase the risks of long-term brain injuries such as memory loss, dementia, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), and Parkinson’s disease. 

The complaint claims that the NCAA’s predecessor, IAAUS, was formed in 1906 “because, at the turn of the twentieth century, head injuries were occurring at an alarming rate in college football.” The goal of the NCAA, it says, was to keep college athletes safe.

During the twentieth century, the complaint says, studies have shown that repeated and violent impacts to a human head can cause TBIs, with the possibility of long-term effects. The complaint reviews a number of these, including studies on the phenomenon of “punch-drunk” boxers who have taken too many blows to the head. It alleges that the NCAA and ULV had a responsibility to disclose the risks of head injury to college players. 

After a concussion, the complaint says, players need time to heal the brain. A brain that has been concussed, it says, is more than normally susceptible to further injury. Players should never be put back into the game, the complaint says, on the same day as they have experienced a concussion.

A player who has a concussion can experience reduced brain function. A question commonly asked on the field to judge whether a player has experienced a concussion is, “What is your name?” Therefore, the complaint says, a player with a concussion can’t judge whether he still has the effects of the concussion. It is others, like the NCAA and ULV who must determine whether the player is still concussed or ready to play again. 

The complaint claims negligence, breach of contract, and fraudulent concealment

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