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NFL brain injury lawsuits lead to questions about the league’s future

“This gladiator mentality may have allowed the NFL to generate enormous profits, but it has left its players with serious life-altering injuries, including various degrees of brain damage,”  excerpt from complaint  

To date, more than 1,000 former NFL players are suing the league. Some of the plaintiffs claim that the NFL had knowledge of the potential risks of repeated head injuries, and that not enough was done to inform players about the dangers of concussions.

A lawsuit filed last week asks the National Football League to make players aware of the short-term and long-term dangers of traumatic head injuries. The players say that the problems are indicative of a culture that has left them and other ex-players with debilitating conditions.

The claimants may have to prove that the NFL had knowledge of the lasting impact of concussions on players’ lives and covered them up, or that the league promotes a culture of violence that significantly increases the risk of injury or death. The recent allegations of bounty operations that paid cash to players who caused significant injury to opponents certainly help to make a case for a culture of violence.

An NFL spokesman said there is no merit to the claim that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players, and that  “It stands in contrast to the league’s actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions”.

Last year – a full two years after Congressional hearings on the link between football and brain injuries, and a couple of well-publicized player deaths – the NFL began a study on concussions and brain injuries in its players.

Some fans make the argument that athletes assume the risk of brain injuries just by playing the sport. That may present a bigger problem for the NFL in the long run: as athletes become bigger and stronger and the stakes become higher, more and more players will suffer serious head injuries while the NFL rakes in the profits. If there is an inherent risk of brain injury for these athletes, is this the beginning of the end for the NFL?

Learn more about brain injuries here. 

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