The NFL has been accused of hiding information that linked football injuries causing head trauma to permanent brain injuries in a lawsuit filed in federal court. A ‘master complaint’ was filed on Thursday in Philadelphia that includes over 80 lawsuits from former players. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit want to hold the NFL accountable for player care when suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s and other brain conditions.
“The NFL, like the sport of boxing, was aware of the health risks associated with repetitive blows producing sub-concussive and concussive results and the fact that some members of the NFL player population were at significant risk of developing long-term brain damage and cognitive decline as a result,” the complaint states.
“Despite its knowledge and controlling role in governing player conduct on and off the field, the NFL turned a blind eye to the risk and failed to warn and/or impose safety regulations governing this well-recognized health and safety problem.”
Last year, Ray Easterling was named as a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits. Easterling committed suicide in April of this year and his wife, Mary Ann Easterling, said she will remain a plaintiff in the case. Easterling played for the Atlanta Falcons as a safety. Easterling suffered from dementia that was undiagnosed for years that would cause him to suffer anger and become volatile at times. His widow said that he would act out of character at various times and even made business decisions that cost the family their house.
“I wish I could sit down with (NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell) and share with him the pain. It’s not just the spouses, it’s the kids, too,” Mary Ann Easterling said. “Kids don’t understand why Dad is angry all the time.”
Easterling’s career with the Falcons lasted from 1972 to 1979, being a leader on the team’s ‘Gritz Blitz’ defense in 1977 that set the record in the NFL for fewest points allowed in a single season. After his NFL career, Easterling created a financial services company that he had to leave in 1990 because of depression and insomnia.
“I think the thing that was so discouraging was just the denial by the NFL,” Mary Ann Easterling said. “His sentiment toward the end was that if he had a choice to do it all over again, he wouldn’t (play). … He was realizing how fast he was going downhill.”
Two other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Dave Duerson’s family, who shot himself in 2011, and his former Chicago Bears teammate, Jim McMahon.
“After voluntarily assuming a duty to investigate, study, and truthfully report to the public and NFL players, including the Plaintiffs, the medical risks associated with MTBI in football, the NFL instead produced industry-funded, biased, and falsified research that falsely claimed that concussive and sub-concussive head impacts in football do not present serious, life-altering risks,” the complaint states.