Earlier this year, a federal judge approved a settlement between the National Football League and a group of over 500 players, each of whom alleged that their participation in the league caused them serious long-term injuries. The crux of the players’ claim is that the NFL failed to adequately warn the players of the serious risks involved and also failed to take the adequate precautionary measures when head injuries were sustained on the field.
These repeated head injuries can lead to a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a degenerative disease of the brain. One complication in the lawsuit is that CTE is only diagnosable posthumously, meaning after the player has died. Thus, the living players can only proceed with evidence that they have the symptoms of CTE, which include aggression, depression, parkinsonism, suicidality, and dementia.
The NFL’s Duty to Look Out for Its Players
The class of plaintiffs consists not just of living players but also of family members of deceased players. The case proceeds under a legal theory under which an employer, in this case the NFL, has a duty to warn employees that the job they are performing has a serious risk of injury. Additionally, the group of plaintiffs claims that when head injuries did occur on the field, the NFL furthered a policy of encouraging players to get back on the field as soon as possible. This, the class alleges, further increased the risks involved of developing a long-term and irreversible diagnosis, such as CTE.