We do love our football here in Tennessee. There are plays that children remember as adults, and adults carry with them the rest of their lives. Who can forget the Music City Miracle? It was the stuff of legend. 16 seconds left, down by a single point. A last-ditch kickoff return, Lorenzo Neal hands the ball to Frank Wycheck, who threw a lateral pass across the field to Kevin Dyson. Dyson sprinted down the sideline for the improbable touchdown to win the game.
With moments like that, it’s no wonder that kids want to play football. But is that going to change? A recent New York Times article shed light on the impact of a decade of medical research into football concussions, congressional hearings and the class-action lawsuit against the NFL. We are beginning to see cases involving players of every age and every level of play.
Pop Warner class-action lawsuit
A lawsuit against the Pop Warner football program filed in California was given the green light to proceed last week. Originally filed by a pair of mothers whose sons played football, they posthumously learned their sons had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease linked to the head trauma found in football. The mothers took issue with being told that wearing helmets would keep their children safe.
NCAA’s avalanche of lawsuits
A recent story reported that over 100 class-action lawsuits had been filed against university athletic programs. These cases have been consolidated in the Northern Illinois District federal court with four cases selected as being representative of the class-action. A separate lawsuit against the NCAA over concussion protocols was settled. The lawsuit dealt with medical monitoring and not personal injury.
Studies show early effects
Boston University studied athletes that began playing football before the age of 12. They found these players had more cognitive and behavioral problems later in their lives than those who began playing football after 12. Wake Forest researchers found that boys between the ages of 8 and 13, after just one season of tackle football, had diminished brain functions.
Change is coming
Programs around the country are making modifications to the game and practices to make the sport safer. Some of the changes include:
- Eliminating tackling during practices
- Having players start in a two-point stance to reduce the risk of head hits
- Banning kickoffs
- Suggesting only flag football through sixth grade and limited tackle in seventh and eighth grades
The long-term effects of head trauma and football hits are being studied. The issue that many people involved in the lawsuits have is that programs either should have known of the risks and shared them with parents and participants or that these programs actively concealed the dangers. An experienced personal injury attorney can investigate each case, consult with medical professionals and help determine if negligence was a factor.