Updated February 20, 2021
A 2016 settlement between the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and thousands of former college athletes lead to improved awareness and treatment of sports-related concussions. The preliminary approval includes a $70 million fund to pay for athlete’s brain trauma testing. The settlement also addresses two other important details: The NCAA would have to toughen return-to-play rules for players who suffer concussions, and the NCAA would not get the complete legal immunity from further concussion lawsuits that it was seeking.
For Adrian Arrington, former Eastern Illinois football player, the settlement was not enough. His opposition came from the lack of payment for damages. Arrington started the lawsuit back in 2011. He has continued the lawsuit past the 2016 settlement. The 2019 amendment established a $5 million fund for concussion research in addition to its new, and lasting, monitoring program.
The problem of concussions, a category of traumatic brain injury (TBI), has received great attention the past few years, especially because of the scale of the problem within the National Football League (NFL). The NFL agreed to a $1 billion settlement in 2015 with former players and their survivors (although it has been challenged). The NFL suit involved more than 5,000 former players and took hold in the public consciousness largely because of the spotlight on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a debilitating condition that can develop as a result of many concussions over time.
As of today, action is still being taken. Retired players and their families are not receiving the payout they were promised. Out of the nearly 18,000 who would be eligible for payouts, less than 700 players have been approved for compensation.
The NCAA settlement involves a much smaller amount—$70 million—but many still see it as an important step. It covers many more individuals, potentially applying to tens of thousands of athletes, both male and female, across many sports. Improving the return-to-play rules would help reduce the effect of concussions, both short- and long-term.
Additionally, the denial of legal immunity for the NCAA is seen as critically important: Some plaintiffs have withdrawn from the suit over this issue in the past. Even with immunity, the NCAA would still get protection from most class action suits.
Doctors, athletes, coaches, and parents have come to recognize the real danger of concussions. With greater awareness has come much better practices. The days of an athlete “having his bell rung,” “shaking it off,” and “getting back in the game” are over. The most dangerous practices, such as one football player “spearing” another with his helmeted head, have been restricted. When a player takes a serious hit, they’re more likely to get pulled from the game and more likely to be properly examined. They won’t be put back in until they have appropriately recovered—which for some players, means never.
Fearing that participation in some sports, such as football, will decline over concussion concerns, some are approaching the problem from another angle: trying to make equipment that better protects athletes. One company, for example, is close to releasing a concussion-resistant football helmet.
Serious sports injuries like concussions need to be taken seriously. While all athletes (and their parents) should be aware of risks and are responsible for their own safety, other factors exist. There are incidents when another party might be to blame for a serious injury, due to negligence. Reckless behavior, or—as in the case of the NFL and CTE—by withholding or suppressing information about the true nature of a risk.
If you or a loved one have suffered from a brain injury, contact the Indianapolis Brain Injury Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
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