Posted on February 4, 2012 · Posted in Brain Injury

Well, the Associated Press has done the legwork, and gotten some of the stories behind, the batch of concussion-related lawsuits that have been filed by ex-players against the National Football League. These tales may put tomorrow’s football dog-and-pony show, the Super Bowl, in a new perspective.

There have been many articles written about the suits that recently have been filed against the NFL, suits that charge that the league either knew about, hid, or ignored evidence that repeated concussions can cause long-term brain damage in players.

But AP went quite a few steps beyond that, spending the last two months interviewing about a dozen of the more than 300 former players who are plaintiffs in the various suits.

AP’s conclusion won’t leave NFL officials with a warm and fuzzy feeling: “What emerged was, at best, a depiction of a culture of  indifference on the part of the league and its teams towards concussions and other injuries. At worst, there was a strong sense of a willful disregard for players’ well-being.”

Ouch. That may make the wings, chips and dip go down a little harder tomorrow if you’re an NFL official.

One of the former players that AP interviewed indepth was Tony Dorsett, who played for Pittsburgh and Dallas. An NFL Hall of Fame member, Dorsett offers up a chilling anecdote, particularly in light of what we know about concussions today.

Dorsett, who is only 57 now, recalled getting the worse hit in the head that he ever had in his career during a 1984 Cowboys-Eagles game. The Cowboys gave Dorsett a very brief exam in a locker room, and then sent him back out to play.

To do something like that today would, in theory, be unthinkable. Dorsett would have undergone a thorough exam by a doctor, and undoubtedly would have been benched. Dorsett told AP that he was dazed and couldn’t think straight during that 1984 game, and that there were similar incidents were he suffered a concussion and was sent back out on the field.

Those helmet-to-helmet hits have taken their toll. Dorsett showed AP some of his brain scans, which indicate that the left side of his brain, which governs organization and memory, is lacking enough oxygen.

“He already forgets people’s names or why he walked into a room or where he’s heading while driving on a highway, and fears his memory issues are getting worse,” AP reported.

But that’s not the half of it.

“Other players describe an off-camera NFL that is darker than the carefully scripted show presented during  Super Bowl week,” according to AP.

The widespread use of painkillers by players, with the alleged encouragement of the league, and pressure from peers and coaches to play even if you were in incredible pain, are among the issues outlined by AP.

Dorsett isn’t the only ex-player who is bitter about what happened. Another retired player told AP that he expects the NFL to drag out the litigation, in the hope that older players will be dead by the time the whole mess is resolved.

So enjoy that half-time show with Madonna tomorrow, everyone.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447