Junior Seau, a 12-time NFL Pro Bowler, shot himself in the chest in 2012 after suffering for years with traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a debilitating brain condition triggered by repeated hits to the head. The condition brings an onset of depression, aggression and dementia.
The lawsuit represents thousands of former NFL players who have suffered debilitating and permanent neurological injuries caused by their NFL career.
Despite the fact that the National Football League has made significant changes to rules governing the way a player can hit another player, the changes have come too late for the family of Seau, as well as the families of former NFL players Paul Oliver, Ray Easterling, Dave Duerson and others – all suspected or confirmed of suffering from CTE before they took their own lives.
Two weeks after Seau’s suicide, his family filed the wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL, saying the league downplayed the risk of concussions and did not properly protect its players. A settlement proposal of $760 million was brought to the table, but was recently rejected.
“Mr. Seau's children have their own claims for the wrong the NFL did to them. His children are not suing for their father's pain and suffering, they are suing for their own,” the family’s attorneys wrote in conjunction with their rejection of the settlement.
While the settlement would currently set aside around $5 million for each of the approximately 4,500 players and families who are plaintiffs in the suit, a staggering 20,000 players could ultimately be eligible for any proceeds, which would reduce the individual settlement amounts to a pittance.
Concussions and head injuries continue to be a paramount challenge facing the NFL.
Adam Chandler of The Wire reports:
“On the field, this year’s NFL postseason has been marred by a slew of head injuries. Nine different players suffered concussions in the first five playoff games, including three members of the Kansas City Chiefs in one game. David Bakhtiari and Keenan Lewis, two of those nine players, refused to leave the sideline and were later cited by the league for violating concussion protocol during playoff games, a violation that carries no consequence for the players or their teams. “