Aug 17, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) is wheeled off the field by medical personnel following an injury against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL’s headache: Former players lawsuits over concussions


The NFL is going to need some more Tylenol. Last week, former NFL players Clinton Portis, Daunte Culpepper and Cadillac Williams along with 80 other former players, added their names to a lawsuit accusing the league of negligence on dealing with concussions. The NFL is already dealing with the suit in which more than 4,500 former players are seeking compensation as a result from what they think is the NFL’s disregard to the severity of head injuries. Last month, a judge ordered both sides to mediation in the suit. A progress report on the mediation is due by Sept. 3. The more names that join the suit, the more you have to think a settlement would be imminent.

In the new addition to the lawsuit, Portis claims that he suffers from headaches and is afraid of the adverse symptoms he might develop in the future.  Earlier this summer Portis said that he thought he had maybe 10 concussions during his career.

“The truth is I had a lot of concussions. It was just the way things were at the time. I’d get hit hard and be woozy. I’d be dizzy. I’d take a play off and then go back in. Sometimes when I went back into the game, I still couldn’t see straight. This happened all the time. Sometimes once or twice a game.”-Clinton Portis

Possibly, the new additions to the lawsuit could be stemming from the ESPN Outside The Lines report that the league’s doctor under former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, was not only guilty of minimizing the severity of head injuries, but also served as Tagliabue’s personal physician for over ten years.  Dr. Elliot Pellman and Tagliabue have been in the middle of the concussion debates because Tagliabue’s mild stance on concussions came from Pellman’s reports on the subject.  There’s no real legal issue of Pellman being Tagliabue’s personal physician, but it certainly does make it easier to understand how the league could have come to a point where they minimized the significance of concussions and then stood by that view for years before budging.

When the former players first started joining in on this lawsuit there was one school of thought that decided this group of players were just disgruntled former employees who hadn’t taken the necessary steps to keep themselves financially stable and were looking to collect.  I always took the stance that it would be tough for them to prove the NFL was actually negligent.  Now, I’m thinking they may have found their “smoking gun”.  While former players will openly admit that they lied to coaches and trainers about their health and, if given the chance, would play again, they weren’t ever able to make the right choice if the league was lying to them to begin with.

I think a settlement will eventually be the right way for the NFL to go on this.  The NFL is basically printing their own money now so covering the medical costs of these former players shouldn’t bankrupt them.  While I do think that the ego and machismo of the NFL player certainly played the role in shaking off head injuries, I don’t think the NFL took the severity of head injuries seriously enough.  Maybe it was the lack of research or data and maybe it was plain old stubbornness.  Either way, the NFL is going to have to pay up somehow or continue to suffer the after effects of all these injuries.

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Tags: Clinton Portis NFL NFL Lawsuits Paul Tagliabue