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Football, Helmets, and Brain Injuries: Can I Sue?

Just this past Sunday, Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore took a vicious hit to the head during the second quarter of the team’s Wild Card loss to Pittsburgh when Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree’s helmet went right into Moore’s chin, leaving him dazed on the field for several minutes. While Moore was eventually able to finish the game, the hit has since sparked a discussion regarding the league’s concussion protocols – and an even greater discussion about the safety of football and the effectiveness of safety equipment used to protect players against head injuries.

Do Football Helmets Actually Cause Injuries?

While the intense scrutiny National Football League (NFL) has faced during the past few years over its player safety policies is nothing new, many have begun to place a larger focus on the effectiveness of equipment, particularly football helmets, against the injuries they claim to prevent. This was recently the focus of a New York Times article in which it was hypothesized that football helmets may actually contribute to more injuries due to a phenomenon known as the Peltzman effect. According to researchers, football helmets may create a false sense of safety and cause players to be more likely to lead with their heads, rather than their bodies and shoulders as is the case with rugby players.

A group of former NFL players have even gone as far as to file a lawsuit against helmet manufacturer Riddell Inc., claiming that the company failed to warn players of the long-term health risk that its helmets would not protect them from. The lawsuit, which was filed by former Steelers Pro Bowl receiver Yancey Thigpen and 13 other players, follows a similar suit filed by Hall of Famer and former Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung against Riddell alleging the same thing.

What Is CTE?

Hornung’s lawsuit and those filed by many other players in recent years have been related to their development of a degenerative brain condition from their football careers called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE. Believed to be caused by repeated head trauma, CTE can cause a myriad of debilitating effects that can increase in severity over time, usually within 8 to 10 years after suffering frequent traumatic brain injuries. Commonly occurring in athletes in contact sports and in military veterans with frequent exposure to explosions, CTE is often identified by numerous cognitive and emotional effects.

Common symptoms of CTE include:

  • Early onset dementia
  • Poor judgment
  • Uncharacteristic aggression
  • Changes in behavior
  • Confusion
  • Short and long-term memory loss
  • Suicidal thoughts

CTE is believed to be caused by a buildup of scar tissue in the brain from concussions and more serious brain trauma. When a football player suffers a hit, their brain jostles within the skull like an egg yolk in its shell, leaving bruises and twisting and stretching the tissues for several milliseconds. According to researchers from Stanford University, football players can be hit upwards of 60 times in a single game at an average G-force of 25.8 – a number that is roughly equivalent to the force of a car crashing into a wall at about 30 miles per hour.

Can I Sue for a Sports-Related Brain Injury?

While sports injuries – including concussions – are a known risk of engaging in any sort of sporting event, whether it be baseball, football, hockey, or soccer, athletes should not be placed situations which increase their risk of injury due to another party’s negligence. While athletes generally assume a certain level of risk in their participation, injured athletes who suffer a sports-related brain injury may have grounds to sue under the following circumstances:

  • Intentional acts: If a player is injured by the intentional act of another player, injured players may be entitled to sue the aggressive player for any losses they should sustain. Examples of this include injuries inflicted during fights or when play has been stopped.
  • Recklessness: Athletes who recklessly injure other players may be held liable for the resulting injuries, such as if a baseball player were to recklessly throw a bat into the field and hit a teammate.
  • Defective products: The manufacturers and sellers of defectively designed, manufactured, or marketed sports equipment may be held liable for any injuries their products should cause.
  • Negligent coaching: Coaches who intentionally place players in dangerous situations or fail to recognize a player’s inability to compete at a particular level or condition may be held liable that any injuries that arise.

Injured? Contact Freidin Brown, P.A.

If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury or developed CTE under any of the above circumstances, the Miami personal injury lawyers at Freidin Brown, P.A. can help. With more than 100 years of trial experience and more than 20 verdicts in excess of $1 million obtained on our clients’ behalf, we have what it takes to guard your rights and help you pursue full compensation for your suffering.

Call (888) 650-0918 or tell us about your case online today to discover your legal options.

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