My friend and professional colleague, Boston attorney Ken Kolpan, last week offered some insight into the tragic case of ex-NFL linebacker Junior Seau in an interview with the Boston Herald.
Kolpan, who is also an expert in cases involving traumatic brain injury, was quoted in a story about Seau’s family filing suit against the league, joining literally thousands of plaintiff’s in concussion litigation.
Seau committed suicide in May, and an examination of his brain tissue determined that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that’s been linked to repeated hits to the head.
A number of deceased football players, several of whom also killed themselves, were found to have that same disease, whose symptoms include depression and mood swings – things Seau suffered from.
Kolpan was asked about a comment that one of Seau’s teammates made, which was that Seau probably had 1,500 concussions during his 20 year career. Yet he never was listed as having had a concussion.
The lawsuits filed by Seau’s family and former NFL players allege that the league either hid the long-term impact of concussions from players or simply didn’t protect them.
But Kolpan told the Boston Herald that if Seau never told his team or coaches or doctors when he had his concussions, it may be hard to hold them liable for the long-term impact of those brain injuries.
But scientific research may bolster the plaintiffs’ cases, according to Kolpan
“I think the scientific evidence linking multiple concussions to CTE is getting stronger and stronger each day,” he told the Boston Herald.
“I think also the research is showing a disproportionate amount of depressed former NFL players when compared to the normal population. So from that regard, the science is really on their side,” he said. “The science was probably there earlier, but the NFL was in a position of denying what neurologists and others in the field knew about traumatic brain injury.”
In the Boston Herald story, Kolpan pointed out that with all the recent publicity about concussions and the permanent brain damage they can cause, jurors will likely be well-informed and may be inclined to compensate Seau’s family.
Just five years ago or so, the NFL was vehemently denying any link between repeated concussions and permanent brain damage. This is the period when some of the players who are now suing were playing, Kolpan said. That may not bode well for the NFL.