Last week, 18 additional class action lawsuits were filed against the NCAA for their alleged mishandling of concussions, bringing the total number to an astonishing 43. The players involved in the cases are seeking damages for injuries they claim are a direct result of concussions they sustained throughout their college football careers that were not properly addressed or treated. In addition, some suits also name individual schools and college conferences, accusing them of willingly putting the plaintiffs in harm’s way by allowing them to continue to play, despite knowing they were concussed.
Edelson PC, the Chicago-based law firm responsible for handling all 43 class action suits, has been actively filing them since May of this year. The most recent filings represent student athletes from Memphis, Eastern Michigan University, Rutgers, Ball State, Florida A&M, Texas A&M, as well as UCLA, Richmond, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Mississippi, Idaho, South Carolina, Alabama and Iowa.
The Notre Dame case was filed on behalf of former fighting Irish cornerback Gary Gray, who says he suffered repetitive head injuries during his time at the university from 2007-2011 but was never given the proper medical care, leaving him with permanent damage, which includes anxiety, uncontrollable mood swings and other incapacitating conditions. The suit alleges Gray would “shake it off” and get back in the game despite having taken sub-concussive or concussive hits and the university did nothing to stop it.
The suit also alleges this kind of thing has been going on for decades, with both Notre Dame and the NCAA knowing full well of the long-term dangers associated with head injuries, traumatic brain injuries and concussions but took extreme measures to conceal the facts in order to maintain highly profitable college football programs.
The suits are filed separately as a result of a judge previously ruling “one large concussion-based class action lawsuit could not be filed against the NCAA.” The NCAA’s chief legal officer, Donald Remy, released a statement referring to the lawsuits as questionable and copycat class actions. His statement also read, “This strategy will not work. The NCAA does not believe that these complaints present legitimate legal arguments and expects that they can be disposed of early by the court.”
In a study conducted by STAT News, it was revealed that although the NCAA has pledged to take concussions and head injuries more seriously, they have set no limit on the number of concussions a player can have before being considered disqualified to play. In fact, a player can be prohibited to play due to head injury by one school, then recruited by another the very next day. The chief medical officer for the NCAA, Dr. Brian Hainline, said in the report, “We are not at a place in society generally, and the NCAA in particular, to state that there is a universal bar that everyone must adhere to regarding ability to play.”
The author of the study, however, disagrees, saying the number of loopholes, lack of communication and blatantly inconsistent policies show the true goal of the NCAA is to win at all costs. He said, “One thing is clear from our story: The NCAA and the schools do not want to talk about this issue of medical disqualification.”
In July of 2016, a federal judge approved a class action concussion settlement of $75 million against the NCAA, stipulating the money go toward setting up a $70 million college athlete medical monitoring program, with the remaining $5 million going toward researching “the prevention, treatment, and/or effects of concussions.”