Head Injuries And Football: What You Need To Know About Personal Injury Lawsuits

Millions of Americans love the spectacle of a football match, and professional players can earn millions of dollars per year. Unfortunately, in a brutal contact sport like this, accidents are likely to occur, and amateur and professional players alike sometimes suffer serious head injuries. Learn more about your legal rights if you suffer a head injury while playing football, and find out about the steps you may need to take to file a lawsuit.

The injuries that can occur during a football match

Research shows that professional football players are at higher risk of serious neurodegenerative brain disease that experts believe occurs as a direct result of playing football. Scientists now believe that players suffer from a serious condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (or CTE) as a result of regular, severe concussive impacts.

Experts believe that these serious injuries develop as early as high school, when athletes start to regularly play the sport. CTE can result in a range of symptoms, including dementia, memory loss and depression. What's more, these symptoms can occur decades after the trauma.

CTE occurs when abnormal proteins develop and tangle around the blood vessels in the brain. These proteins can interfere with signals to and from the brain and will eventually kill the nerve cells.

The scale of the issue

Anyone who plays football is at risk of concussion and could go on to develop a serious head injury. In fact, research suggests that the scale of the problem could become enormous. One study found that 76 of 79 deceased players examined had brain disease. In professional games, concussion injuries are common. In fact, one watchdog found at least 108 concussions reported in professional games in 2015. 

Lawsuit history

Coverage in the American press and increasing awareness of the issue has led to class-action lawsuits against the National Football League (NFL) by former players. In 2015, a federal judge finally approved a class-action lawsuit settlement between the NFL and multiple former players, who alleged that the sport caused serious, life-changing brain injuries.

According to the terms of the settlement, the NFL will pay up to $5 million to ex-players diagnosed with conditions like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. Nonetheless, the settlement only applies to players named in the contributing lawsuits, and the plaintiffs only have a fixed period in which they can submit their claims.

Unsurprisingly, some lawyers opted out of the settlement and will continue to pursue their own lawsuits. Similarly, other players must also pursue their own legal action. So what could a personal injury entail?

Filing a personal injury lawsuit

Every personal injury lawsuit is different, but the principles of this type of action are consistent.

You must prove that:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care.
  • The defendant breached this duty.
  • The defendant's breach harmed you.
  • The injuries you incurred are enough to warrant compensation.

For a football-related head injury, you may need to consider multiple defendants. According to the injury incurred, different parties may become liable. For example, if you play while at high school, your lawyer may argue that the school authorities didn't do enough to prevent a head injury. Alternatively, you may decide to sue a sporting authority (like the NFL) for a similar failure to protect you.

You may even decide to sue another player. For example, if one of your opponents acts in a reckless manner and/or breaks the rules of the game, you could decide that he is negligent and liable for your injuries.

Factors a court will consider

A court will not always find a defendant wholly liable. The defendant's attorney may argue comparative negligence, which means you are also partly to blame for the injury.

For example, doctors with binoculars now often watch professional games, so they can recommend that players with possible head injuries stop playing. These sideline neurologists can force players to leave the pitch, even if they don't want to. As such, a lawyer could argue that this approach mitigates the risk of a serious head injury and that players understand the risks when they play. In short, the football league has done as much as necessary to follow its duty of care.

Given these (and many other) complexities that can arise during a personal injury lawsuit, it's important to get help from an experienced attorney. While the sport may cause a head injury, you may still need to fight to get the compensation you deserve. For more information about personal injury cases, contact a professional like Carl L. Britt, Jr..