Concussion Suit Against NCAA Seeks Expansion to Class-Action

Submitted by bluebyyou on July 20th, 2013 at 6:42 AM

I saw this ESPN piece on a suit,  looking to expand to class action status, which is based on concussions suffered by NCAA football players.  Of all the cases which are currently ongoing, I find this case to have more potential impact on the game of football than what is happening with the O'Bannon matter or anything else relating to college football. As players from all universities could eventually become part of the class, I don't believe this should be "OT".

CHICAGO -- Attorneys suing the NCAA over its handling of head injuries asked a federal judge Friday to let them expand the lawsuit nationwide to include thousands of plaintiffs in a case they contend could change college sports forever.

The motion seeking class-action status was filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, where the original lawsuit was filed two years ago on behalf of several former athletes, including former Eastern Illinois football player Adrian Arrington. His attorney, Joseph Siprut, said he doesn't want to see the demise of college contact sports, including football, but safety is paramount.

"If changes aren't made, the sport is going to slowly die," he said. If they can't be reassured football is safe, parents will stop their kids from playing "and when the talent well dries up, that's how the sport dies."



July 20th, 2013 at 7:51 AM ^

What I am starting to become very afraid of is that there may not be a way to protect players from brain trauma even if there is no head-to-head contact.  A recent study from the Cleveland Clinic showed that when two players' bodies collide, there could be brain trauma from the decelerative forces combined with a whiplash effect of the head  Even if colleges were to use head monitoring equipment to raise warnings about head trauma, that may not be enough, and even that raises its own set of problems.




July 20th, 2013 at 10:00 AM ^

I disagree, but the solution may not be obvious now. The popularity of the sport and the money that there is to be made by finding a solution almost certainly means that someone will engineer some device to help protect players and from there others will improve it to the point where concussion rates decline. The way it's going, there's incentive for fixing the problem on all sides and tons of money to be made, just not yet the knowledge of how to deal with the problem.


July 20th, 2013 at 7:46 AM ^

Here is the press release on the grant mentioned in the ESPN article, for anyone interested in what this is about - LINK

"For this study, the researchers will draw upon the pool of NCAA student-athletes who took part in a previous NCAA-funded study. In 1999, Guskiewicz and McCrea embarked on “The NCAA Concussion Study”, which examined football players from 29 NCAA Division I, II and III schools. When findings were published in 2003, no other study had examined a larger pool of concussed athletes. "

What they propose will probably takes years between finding the people from the previous work and scheduling them for things as diverse as genetic testing and neuroimaging studies, as well as balance assessments and psychological evaluations. 

I would really be interested in seeing that internal survey mentioned as part of the basis for trying to make this class-action, if indeed this snippet from CBS is true:

"According to the Associated Press, this class-action proposal is bolstered by a report from 2010 -- an "internal NCAA survey" that shows data indicating "nearly half" of trainers in college knowingly put possibly concussed football players back into a game after coming off the field and showing signs of a concussion."


July 20th, 2013 at 7:57 AM ^

I'm not sure I buy that.  I compare that to riding a motorcycle. Everyone knows that riding a motorcycle is dangerous, even with the proper protective gear. Yet many riders choose not to wear the proper gear (boots, pants, jacket, gloves, and helmet.)


July 20th, 2013 at 9:55 AM ^

"Drying up of talented players" ever happening. There's just no way, because so many people don't care about the consequences, they just want to play! They don't live to play school (have a brain), they live to play football, regardless. Right or wrong, that is the case.


July 20th, 2013 at 10:10 AM ^

Does anyine really think, honestly believe, that the NCAA or individual schools are reckless or callous or uncaring about the players and their injuries? Guess what, we are learning more every year about concusssions and how to treat them--stuff we DIDN'T KNOW and were not educated about in the past. That isn't  the same thing. I'm biased obviously, but I am so tired of people that had a rough time trying to sue and getting money from other people. Sometimes your injury or problem is actually no one's fault.


July 20th, 2013 at 10:35 AM ^

If Alabama was playing for the "national championship," and was driving down the field with less than a minute left, down by four points, and AJ McCarron was showing signs of a concussion after a brutal hit, but told Saban he was well enough to play and wanted to go back in, does anyone really think Saban wouldn't find a way to rationalize that AJ was OK, and send him in for "one more play?"

Many coaches are much more unscrupulous than Saban, and would have a player play until he dropped.  While the game has come a long way from the 1960's, when players would laugh about seeing double and going back in, it still has a long way to go.  

To me, the problem is that the equipment gives the illusion of impunity, when it actually makes the risks of concussions and sub-concussions higher by encouraging hits with higher impact.  

I would like to see no cleats, thus decreasing leverage and dissipating force, and soft padding that can't be used as a weapon.  I think helmets need to be smaller, and maybe with no face masks, discouraging players from "leading with their heads."

I also think that the rules need to be changed so that there is no reward for using excessive force in a hit.  I would require an interval between passes being caught and tackling the receiver, and rule that a hit can't cause an incompletion.  I would also remove fumbles from the rule book, giving the ball back to the team whose player who dropped the ball at the point of having dropped it.

The "old school" fans who do nothing more strenuous than open a bag of chips, but insist on "hard hitting," would complain at first, but the game would be made safer, and would still be as exciting as it was.  Most of all, concussions and injuries would be decreased dramatically.


July 20th, 2013 at 11:22 AM ^

the essential appeal and nature of the game. Since I am for individual reponsibility in all things, I have zero issue with the risks of injury in the game--as long as the players are educated about those risks. If they are, and choose to go back in and play, or play at all, that should be no one's business in society but theirs.


July 20th, 2013 at 4:38 PM ^

"I also think that the rules need to be changed so that there is no reward for using excessive force in a hit.  I would require an interval between passes being caught and tackling the receiver, and rule that a hit can't cause an incompletion.  I would also remove fumbles from the rule book, giving the ball back to the team whose player who dropped the ball at the point of having dropped it."

You can't possibly be serious.  That is flag football.  I agree with you on the pads/helmet issue, but why even play the game if you can't play defense?  The scores would 70-63 on a regular basis.  Jesus, if this is what the game comes to at some point, just kill it and create a new sport.  This is like boxing banning punching.


July 20th, 2013 at 8:25 PM ^

Honestly, think this through.  Do you know how many more serious ankle injuries there would be if not for cleats?  Imagine trying to plant and block in the rain or snow without them (or doing a hundred other things).  Good luck.  And to my knowledge there's no evidence linking cleats to concussions anyway.

And as another poster astutely observed, the rest of your proposed "rule changes" basically gut the game and leave you with flag football.  A hit can't cause an incompletion?  How do you even enforce that?  Who's to say whether the ball would have been caught or dropped?  An interval between a catch and permitted tackling?  Throw the ball to the sticks and let receivers gain automatic first downs because the defense is standing there stupid.  That's not exciting; it's immensely frustrating.  Nor can I remember a player sustaining a head injury while scrambling for a fumble.

Lastly, making helmets smaller is not at all an intuitive solution.  It might make players less likely to lead with their heads--I don't know--but it could also increase the chance of a head injury for inadvertent collisions--which are going to happen no matter what.


July 20th, 2013 at 10:43 AM ^

if the NCAA or NFL or MHSAA ends up getting hit with big suits because of concussions players have received, where does football go from there? No contact with the helmet? No contact at all?


July 20th, 2013 at 10:50 AM ^

These suits make me think of the scene in Liar Liar when Jim Carey's client asks for advice and he screams at him,"Stop breaking the law, asshole." If you don't want to have problems with your body and your head later in life,"Don't play a contact sport that has you slamming your head into other people trying to slam into you, asshole."


July 20th, 2013 at 4:45 PM ^

Surely people can't be trusted to make decisions, about their own health no less, by themselves.  We must legislate, litigate, and limit.  18-22 year old males certainly have no capacity to make informed decisions, based on the very obvious benefits and costs, about their own lives.  Thank God 17-18 year olds can't make decisions like choosing their elected representatives or facing possible death and/or injury by joining the military.  


July 20th, 2013 at 11:39 AM ^

is just how many ex-players have dimentia? 10%? 20%? 50%? I'd like to know this in order to properly judge how widespread the problem is. Certainly this is a serious issue no matter the percentage, but a number gives us some perspective on the depth of the problem.


July 20th, 2013 at 12:26 PM ^

You ask a valid question, but one which may not be able to be answered for a long time to come as the data is not ascertainable until after all players for a given period are dead and their lifetime illnesses reviewed. Because athletes are so much bigger, faster and stronger now than they were only a couple of decades ago, what will happen to today's athletes may be worse (or better) than what has happened to their predecessors.  It will be a long time from now before we know the answers.

If it is determined, which I believe to be quite likely, that college football is generating uncontrollable long term brain damage, I don't know how the universities can assume the financial risk which is going to be there.  Then there are some moral/ethical questions about exposing kids to a type of risk which is very different from arthritic knees which are going to be asked.


July 20th, 2013 at 7:30 PM ^

Given at Penn, addresses this very subject. He asks a legitimate question: how much proof do you need to know if something is bad for you?

For those that haven't watched it (not a short speech, like 30-45 min I think), this is a pretty interesting take on this subject, and it is concerning. Not saying I agree or disagree, but it is one of the more thoughtful discussions of this subject I have seen, perhaps there are others.

Speech is here. Comparison is black lung disease and coal miners. Obviously not an analogy intended to disprove a problem.

[UPDATE]: Woah, this was just front paged on More Gladwell, now comparing football to dog fighting.


July 21st, 2013 at 9:14 AM ^

I'm just kind of confused as to why there are no suits in the works against boxing, MMA, hockey, even soccer where this stuff is much more common than the average fan realizes.  Cheerleading is basically a horrorshow, for that matter.  People die in auto racing every year, and no one seems to feel like the future of the sport is at risk.  Then there are all the "extreme sports," people doing flips off of snowmobiles, etc.... I guess I just feel like there's a disconnect.  Everyone seems willing to accept that all of these other sports come with certain risks, and as long as everyone knows what they're getting themselves into, then it's OK.  But football is different somehow.


I'll be the first person here to advocate for making the game as safe as possible without radically redefinining it.  I do think helmets should be made safer - even if in such a way that it changes from the traditional appearance to do so.  I do believe in rules against intentionally targetting or leading with the head.  Nobody wants these guys to be crippled for life.  Also, I believe that the NFL has an obligation to take some of that absurd profit and funnel it into research and health care for the players.  Ditto for the NCAA.  

All that said, if we as fans are going to be OK with a boxer standing there for 12 rounds and getting his skull bashed in, or a driver having his car explode in flames before flipping a half dozen times in the air, then how can we draw a line at football?

Section 1

July 21st, 2013 at 9:37 AM ^

Without going into a tutorial on class actions, this seems to me to be a meritless stretch.

When you are dealing with claims of very individualized personal injuries, allegedly incurred under varying and different circumstances, at the direction of different autonomous tortfeasors...

That is precisely the sort of claim in which class actions have been denied.  There are far too many non-common elements of the claim.  In my view -- and I'd very much like to hear from an experienced class action lawyer who opposes my view -- this is a meritless petition for class certification.  I hope the plaintiffs lose.