It is the NCAA’s turn to share the blame for the brain injuries of former football players. A week after the National Football League (NFL) settled with its players injured by repeated concussions, three former National College Athletic Association (NCAA) football players filed a class action suit against the organization to obtain funding for a medical monitoring program. Similar to the NFL complaint, the three former NCAA players allege that the organization failed to provide proper protocols to enhance safety, and fraudulently concealed information pertaining to brain trauma from repeated concussions.
Since the NCAA is not an employer, unlike the NFL, plaintiffs could not assert an obligation by the NCAA to maintain the health and safety of its athletes by virtue of an employment relationship. Plaintiffs instead allege that the NCAA breached its promise to protect the health of athletes as articulated in its constitution. Therefore plaintiffs will have to prove the NCAA had knowledge of the health risks and elected to disregard such risks. Even if the rules of the game could not change to alleviate such risks, the NCAA would still need to show it researched solutions after obtaining knowledge, and explain why such solutions would not remedy the problem.
After the NCAA inevitably settles this case, the question remains whether the allocation of blame for brain injuries of former football players will continue. This suit limits remedies to former college football players that did not play professional football in the NFL, so somewhere a class action for former high school football players suffering from brain injuries despite not playing in the NCAA is waiting to be filed.
In the case against the NCAA, each of the three former players recall at least one hit that resulted in lightheadedness or injury during their time as a college football player. They also allege that post graduation they sustained severe headaches, and one reported retiring at age 50 as a result of poor memory and inability to concentrate. At this point, it is almost impractical to dispute the dangerous effects of even one blow to the head. Add repeated hits from practices, scrimmages, and games, and a single player very well may sustain close to one thousand or more hits to the head in one season as alleged in the complaint. Therefore as each suit is settled and another filed, it is harder for the next entity to refuse any monetary request for whatever brain injuries a former football player sustains as a result of the game. Looks like it is time for owners, schools, and even unincorporated associations receiving millions of dollars in revenue to share the wealth.