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October 2011 Newsletter

I love football. It is because of my love for the game and the valuable life lessons that it instills in young people that I have become increasingly alarmed at the growing number of former NFL players who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, depression and other serious mental disabilities as a result of a degenerative brain disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Over the past decade medical researchers have established a link between CTE and concussions sustained by professional football players during play.

The NFL, however, has repeatedly tried to invalidate these research findings – and, until recently, failed to make changes in its protocol which would have protected players from head injuries. Meanwhile, thousands of players have experienced repetitive head traumas in the past 10 years, and the NFL has profited from these players’ unwitting sacrifice.

Among the facts cited by The New York Times:

  • A concussion is an injury to the brain which occurs when the “head either accelerates rapidly and then is stopped, or is spun rapidly.”
  • Such shaking causes the brain’s neurotransmitters to fire all at once which temporarily deadens receptors linked to learning and memory. Symptoms of concussion include confusion, blurred vision, memory loss, and unconsciousness.
  • A player who suffers one concussion is four times more likely to sustain a second one. After several concussions, a player sustains a concussion from a less violent incident and requires longer to recover.
  • A 2000 study found that more than 60% of NFL players had sustained at least one concussion; and 26% had three or more.
  • A 2007 study of retired players found that of all players who could remember having three or more concussions, 20% reported being diagnosed for depression.
  • A 2009 telephone study found that Alzheimer’s and other memory-related disabilities had been diagnosed in retired NFL players at a rate 19 times the average for men aged 30 to 49. Although neurologists say that dementia cannot be diagnosed by telephone, they acknowledge that the study’s findings are cause for alarm.
  • The NFL changed its protocol for players with head traumas only after members of a Congressional committee meeting in 2009 compared the NFL to the tobacco industry (whose business leaders lied to Congress about concealing from the public the industry practice of adding addictive chemicals to tobacco products).

The NFL (and perhaps the helmet manufacturers too) knew about the serious long-term dangers to which it’s players were exposed, yet withheld this information from the players for many years. Further, until very recently, the NFL encouraged a style of play that emphasized and encouraged the most violent and dramatic style of hitting among the players. The NFL must be held accountable for both the short- and long-term effects on players’ health; and the safety of the game must be radically improved—at all levels of play—to make sure that no more youth, high school, college, and professional football players suffer repetitive head traumas leading to CTE.

I am pleased to announce that I have recently teamed up with the law firm Pope, McGlamry, Kilpatrick, Morrison & Norwood (PMKM & N) to take on the NFL. PMKM & N is one of the top Plaintiff’s firms in the South if not the entire country, and I am confident that together we will succeed. Read more about the campaign: NFL Concussion Campaign

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