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NFL Sued Over Brain Injuries: Did League Know Medical Risks?

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on December 22, 2011 12:48 PM

Four former NFL players are suing the league, claiming a cover-up in connection with NFL brain injuries.

The four ex-NFL players -- Jamal Lewis, Dorsey Levens, Fulton Kuykendall, and Ryan Stewart -- say they suffered concussions while playing for the NFL, the Associated Press reports. They're now dealing with a wide range of medical problems.

The ex-players also claim an NFL cover-up. The NFL knew about the dangers of NFL brain injuries back in the 1920s, the lawsuit asserts -- but the league didn't tell players, coaches, trainers, or the public until June 2010.

"The NFL has done everything in its power to hide the issue and mislead players concerning the risks associated with concussions," the lawsuit states, according to the AP. The NFL denies the claims.

Football players who suffer NFL brain injuries are at risk of long-term brain damage if they're hit with successive concussions, CBS Sports reports.

But while pro athletes in other sports usually get time off to recuperate after a concussion, NFL protocol forced players to get back in the game as soon as possible -- oftentimes "the very game in which the injury occurred," the former players' lawsuit states.

The suit was filed this week in U.S. district court in Atlanta, where all four of the ex-players live, ESPN reports. The NFL brain injury lawsuit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.

Concussion-related lawsuits are generally based in negligence claims, and can result in damage awards for medical expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering. State statutes of limitations may limit the time in which an alleged victim can file a claim.

NFL lawyers may also try to claim assumption of risk as a defense, by arguing the ex-NFL players voluntarily accepted the risks involved in playing pro football.

The NFL brain injury lawsuit comes as the NFL announced a new concussion protocol that kicks in tonight. The suit also follows at least four other lawsuits filed this year by former players over the NFL's concussion policies.

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