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On the Eve of Super Bowl, NFL Brain Injury Lawsuits Consolidated

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Philadelphia, PAWith the 2012 Super Bowl days away and the prospect of football players on both teams pulling out all the stops for a win in the globally televised spectacle, the last thing on the minds of spectators and players alike will be brain injury. The heat of battle usually dwarfs such concerns.

After the fact, however, will be a different matter as the potential for traumatic brain injury in the NFL continues to gain traction with players and their families. To that end, retired players with the National Football League have filed another brain injury lawsuit, over concerns with brain injury fostered by on-field concussions.

According to a report by The Associated Press (AP) published in The Star-Ledger of Newark (1/20/12), this latest foray into brain injury law is the third lawsuit filed in Philadelphia. There are at least eight related lawsuits filed in four other states.

Concern over concussions and their aftermath have been rising steadily in all professional sports. Specifically, the degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and its relationship to multiple concussions has driven many a player, or their surviving families, to their brain injury lawyer for help.

In the NFL specifically, the ability to get back into the game after a hard hit (even to the head) was a measure of a player's toughness. Until recently, most players or their families had no idea that returning to active play too soon after sustaining a concussion could foster a brain injury from which there is little escape.

Various brain injury cases in the NFL have involved change in behavior following retirement from the game, memory loss and loss of cognitive skills. There have been suicides. Autopsies have revealed CTE in some cases.

Plaintiffs in the various brain injury law cases accuse the NFL of withholding knowledge allegedly in their possession related to the possibility of brain injury and concealing such concerns. "Rather than warn players that they risked permanent brain injury if they returned to play too soon after sustaining a concussion, the NFL actively deceived players, by misrepresenting to them that concussions did not present serious, life-altering risks," the suit charges.

Among the plaintiffs in this latest brain injury lawsuit are three former members of the Philadelphia Eagles: Ron Solt, Joe Panos and Rich Mano. The action was filed January 18 in Philadelphia.

AP reports that among the hundreds of plaintiffs in various lawsuits alleging a conspiracy on the part of the CFL is two-time Super Bowl champion Jim McMahon. One wonders if plaintiffs like McMahon and their families will be watching Sunday's annual football spectacle with a different eye.

To wit, along with the enjoyment of an exciting football game, there will be lurking the constant possibility of concussion, and the brain injury that could result. Victims of CTE, or those who are asymptomatic but remain nonetheless concerned, are left to wonder if their fate might have been different had they known the dangers and reacted accordingly?

Bloomberg News reported yesterday that lawsuits have been consolidated in Philadelphia. The decision by the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation was handed down January 31. Cases will be consolidated before US District Judge Anita Brody. "The subject actions share factual issues arising from allegations against the NFL stemming from injuries sustained while playing professional football," the panel said in its ruling.

Bloomberg reports that last year the NFL imposed a protocol on team trainers and medical staff to assess players having sustained a concussion during a game. For any NFL player having sustained multiple concussions and potential brain injury during years of service to the NFL, the protocol comes too late.

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