One plaintiff in the new lawsuit against the NFL made it all the way to the Hall of Fame. Several of his co-plaintiffs never even made it into an official game.
Dan Marino played seventeen seasons in the NFL, setting since-surpassed records for passing yards in a season and a career, before deciding to file suit against the league. Several of his fellow plaintiffs never played a down in a regular season NFL game.
Marino and fourteen other litigants filed suit last week against the NFL alleging “headaches, dizziness, loss of memory, dementia, depression, impulse control, impulsivity to anger, cognitive dysfunction, employment impairment, physical activity limitations, embarrassment, loss of the pleasures of life,” and other problems because of their NFL careers. Several of the fourteen players Marino has made common cause with never actually made it past the preseason to enjoy an NFL career.
Ethan Johnson, a defensive end at Notre Dame cut in the 2012 preseason by the Kansas City Chiefs, sues alongside the 17-year NFL veteran. An Anthony Grant listed in the suit as competing in the NFL in 1987 doesn’t appear in Pro-Football-Reference.com’s database. Neither does Chris Dugan, who appears to have tried out for several NFL teams as a kicker but doesn’t appear in any regular season NFL statistics.
Does a cut kicker really suffer from dementia, impulse control, or headaches as a result of the brief time he spent hitting leather balls with his foot during NFL tryouts?
Beyond the questionable litigants Marino has joined, the personal-injury lawsuit he has attached his name to includes several dubious claims.
* The suit maintains that the NFL has known since the 1970s that its players would suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) as a result of playing. But doctors didn’t discover CTE in a football player until several years into the twenty-first century.
* The league faults the NFL for not adopting the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) standard to exclude helmets designated as poor from appearing on players’ heads in the league. But players, not teams or the league, choose the helmet brands they wear.
* “The NFL has actively concealed and/or aggressively disputed any causal connection between concussions in NFL football and brain injury or illness,” the suit alleges. “For many decades before June of 2010, Defendant voluntarily and repeatedly made material misrepresentations to its players, former players, the United States Congress, and the public at large that there was no link (or an insufficient scientific link) between repetitive traumatic head impacts and/or concussions and later in life cognitive/brain injury, including CTE and its related symptoms.” But that’s just what the leaders in sports medicine asserted regarding CTE in the consensus statement of the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport that took place in Zurich in November 2012. They held, “a cause and effect relationship has not yet been demonstrated between CTE and concussions or exposure to contact sports.” Numerous articles in medical journals authored by dozens of doctors say the same thing. A federal government study of nearly 3,500 former NFL players expected to find 10 instances of death from neurological and nervous system diseases. They found 12.
The brief, filed in federal court in Philadelphia by attorney Sol Weiss on May 28, seeks damages and medical care for the fifteen player plaintiffs. “This action seeks separate relief for medical monitoring,” the lawsuit announces, “and seeks compensation and financial recovery for the long-term/chronic injuries, financial losses, expenses and intangible losses suffered by Plaintiffs as a result of Defendant’s carelessness, negligence, intentional misconduct and concealment of information directly related to each Plaintiff’s injuries, risk of injury and losses.”