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Serious, Irreversible Head Injuries Occurring in Contact Sports

It isn’t surprising that when sports fans think of concussion-related injuries, they think of football. Football is a game of hard hits, and even with helmets, head injuries occur. During the course of a game, it is not uncommon to see a player carted off the field with a head injury.

The recent movie, Concussion, starring Will Smith, highlights the dangers of concussions in football. Sports fans may also link concussions with football because of a highly publicized class action lawsuit that former players filed against the National Football League (NFL) for brain-related injuries. A settlement in that case is on hold pending appeal.

Because of all the attention the NFL has received surrounding concussions, other sports, including hockey and soccer, have received far less fanfare despite the dangerous nature of their games. With soccer, it is understandable that the risk of brain injury is often overlooked, since the game is primarily played with the ball on the ground. But soccer is also a sport where players routinely head the ball after it has traveled high and far in the air, and mid-air head collisions can and do occur between players jostling for a head ball.

In professional hockey, players are not allowed to “check” other players above the shoulders, but checking another player into the boards can still cause a player’s head to crash into the boards. In addition, while helmets are no longer optional and fighting is not as common as it once was, it is still not a violation of league rules. When a fight occurs, players are often bloodied by punches to the head, with helmets doing little to protect them. The penalty is then a short stay in the penalty box, which does little to discourage future fights.

Given the nature of the game, it was only a matter of time before retired hockey players caught up with their football brethren and charged the league with failing to inform them about the risks of concussions. According to a news article, this occurred recently when the family of a retired hockey player, Steve Montador, sued the National Hockey League (NHL) for failing to warn players of the risks of concussions, and even promoting violence on the ice. Matador, who played his last of 12 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, recently died of unknown causes.

During Montador’s career, he suffered 15 documented concussions. After his death, an autopsy revealed that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a degenerative brain condition caused by repeated blows to the head. Other families have filed similar lawsuits against the NHL on behalf of former players, but to date the NHL has taken the opposite approach from the NFL, denying any link between their deaths and days on the ice.

Because of the publicity surrounding the lawsuit against the NFL, concussion injuries are being taken more seriously in many youth sports. Student athletes, coaches, and parents are all being educated about the risks of repeated blows to the head, and concussion protocols are being put in place in amateur leagues all over the country.

These steps are critical to the health of amateur athletes. While the number of amateur athletes with CTE is unknown, a recent study indicated that amateur athletes may be at risk for CTE despite not playing at the professional level. The study contained a limited sample size, so researchers cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from the results. However, it is expected that the study will encourage more research into the effects of sports-related head injuries on youth athletes. In the meantime, at least one class action lawsuit was filed against soccer’s governing body on behalf of so-called “soccer moms.” In response to the case, youth soccer organizations began implementing more stringent rules among leagues including younger children.

Have You or a Loved One Been Injured Playing Sports?

Like the class action lawsuit against the NFL, the “soccer mom” lawsuit had a ripple effect, causing an improvement in safety for children all across America. At Moll Law Group, our personal injury lawyers strive to improve safety in the same way by holding those accountable who fail to take reasonable precautions to protect your safety. If you are a former hockey player, football player, or amateur athlete, and you believe that you may be suffering from long-term injuries that could have been prevented, our lawyers can help. With our experience handling complex cases like these, we are equipped to handle all types of athletic injury cases. Don’t be deterred by those who deny their culpability for your injuries and refuse to acknowledge what science and medicine tell us is true. The NFL tried this strategy but ultimately came around. Professional hockey will likely come around too if enough former players come forward. For a free consultation, call Moll Law Group at 312.462.1700.

See More Posts:

Child Birth Injuries and Medical Malpractice Claims, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, December 8, 2015.

Public Schools Enjoy Some Level of Immunity for Injuries to Students, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, December 16, 2015.

Doctors and Drug Companies May Be Liable for Medication Side Effects, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, December 22, 2015.

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