Former NHL Players Launch Concussion Lawsuit

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Earlier this week, former National Hockey League players launched a concussion lawsuit against the league, putting athlete concussion management back in the spotlight a mere three months after the National Football League’s $765 million concussion settlement.

Ten former players are claiming that the league purposefully concealed information regarding the risks of traumatic brain injuries and in turn exposed the players to unnecessary dangers that could have been avoided with accurate information and appropriate preventative action. The lawsuit also claims that the league has created and fosters “a culture of violence.”

The lawsuit is seeking damages and medical monitoring for the players’ brain trauma and injuries, though a proposed monetary amount has not yet been disclosed. The suit claims that:

  • The NHL knew or should have known about scientific evidence that players who sustain repeated head injuries are at greater risk for illnesses and disabilities both during their hockey careers and later in life.
  • Even after the NHL created a concussion program to study brain injuries affecting NHL players in 1997, the league took no action to reduce the number and severity of concussions during a study period from 1997 to 2004. "Plaintiffs relied on the NHL's silence to their detriment," the suit says.
  • The league didn't do anything to protect players from unnecessary harm until 2010, when it made it a penalty to target a player's head.
  • However the NHL is in an interesting spot in terms of some incontestable preventative and concussion assessment measures they've taken over the years. To add some perspective here, consider the following. In 1997, the NHL became the first league to form a concussion working group and the first to conduct to baselines for more accurate assessments. In 2011, they implemented a new protocol for concussion evaluations, requiring that players suspected to have suffered a concussion be examined in a quiet room by the team physician instead of on the bench. The NHL was met with resistance when they strongly recommended making helmet visors mandatory earlier this year by the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA), just as they were met with similar resistance over mandatory helmet use almost 35 years ago.While the suit only involves ten players right now, the number is likely to rise as it was filed on behalf of all players who retired on or before February 14, 2013 and who have suffered such injuries. The NFL lawsuit began with 75 players yet by the time a settlement was reached, more than 4,500 players were involved. Be sure to subscribe to our blog or follow us on twitter as we’ll be watching closely as this story develops! 

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