Research has already shown that concussion and resulting disorders can severely affect the lives of victims. Yet, the school and athletic organizations, the NCAA, and those in charge of student-athlete safety have failed to protect some players from the concussion even though the dangers of this injury and its resulting complications have been known for quite some time. Dozens of former players have filed lawsuits against the NCAA and athletic organizations alleging they failed to take the appropriate actions to protect athletes from concussion dangers and failed to warn athletes of this danger.
How Long Has the NCAA Known
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The NCAA was founded in 1906 with the mission of protecting young people from dangerous and what it called exploitive practices that were occurring at the time. It was founded as the Intercollegiate Athletic Association before changing its name in 1910 to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
The NCAA recognized that the dangers of concussion should not be taken lightly in the Medical Handbook for School and Colleges in 1933. The guidelines set forth in the handbook required that any athlete suspected of sustaining a concussion were to receive immediate treatment, constant supervision, X-rays, and rest. In fact, the handbook recommended that players should be allowed to return to play if the symptoms of concussion subsided within 48 hours. If a player’s symptoms did not resolve, they were restricted from playing for at least 21 days.
1994 A Push for Change
The NCAA Associate Director of Sports Scientists Randall Dick pushed for changes to better protect student-athletes after determining that about 60 percent of all monitored sports program injuries were concussions. The organization developed the first rules for concussion injuries in Guideline 20. However, the rules were not binding requirements, and no rules were issued to reduce the high rate of concussion in collegiate sports.
Guideline 20 Protections Removed
Just three years after establishing Guideline 20, the NCAA removed the guideline from the handbook, even though sports scientists voiced growing concern about the dangers of concussion. The organization replaced the guideline in 1997 with rules calling for players to be removed from play after being knocked unconscious and kept off the field for as long as symptoms were present.
Athletes Wait Years for Concussion Protection
Student-athletes waited for nearly 13 years for the organization to implement policies to protect them from concussion better. In 2010, the NCAA published the Concussion Management Policy, decades after acknowledging the dangers of the condition. While the organization has begun working to improve safety for student-athletes, you must wonder why the safety and health of students haven’t been priorities since the beginning.
For years, the NCAA has failed student-athletes. In 2010, a survey by the organization found that nearly one-half of the people who responded admitted to returning players to the game after the player sustained a concussion. And a survey three years later by the Chronical of Higher Education found that nearly half of the trainers who responded said they were pressured by coaches to put athletes back on the field before the student was medically cleared to return to play.
Putting a player back in the game before they are medically ready puts them at serious risk. When students suffer repeated brain injury, a degenerative brain disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy can result. CTE has been linked to a wide range of problems, including aggression, memory loss, depression, suicidal thoughts, erratic behavior, and progressive dementia among many others.
And research is showing that concussion and CTE may be far more widespread than originally thought. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shocked the public with its findings. For the study, researchers examined the brains of deceased former football players for signs of CTE. A total of 202 brains were examined, and researchers found that of those brains examined CTE was present:
- In 21 percent of high school football player’s brains
- In 88 percent of brains studied from former Canadian Football League players
- In 91 percent of brains studied from former college players
- In 99 percent of the brains from former NFL players
CTE Research Continues
In a first, scientists were able to diagnose a living former football player with CTE. Up until this breakthrough, CTE was only diagnosed after a player died and their brain could be examined. Researchers believe that this capability will allow them to diagnose living patients, giving them the opportunity to make more informed life and health choices.
Scientists have also discovered that players with CTE have elevated levels of the biomarker CCL11. This discovery could also help the medical community diagnose the condition in living patients, but it could also allow doctors a better way to tell if the patient is suffering from Alzheimer’s or CTE and develop more specific and beneficial plans of care.
Meanwhile, a neuroscientist has been working to develop a drug that could be given after a head injury is sustained to decrease the impact of the symptoms of concussion. The company developing the drug, Prevacus, will soon be conducting tests of the drug Prevasol on humans after studies involving rats showed the drug reduced swelling, brain inflammation, and oxidated stress. It will be several years before the drug could reach the market if human trial results are positive.
We Can Help
As scientists continue to work to identify CTE earlier, these advances come too late for all the athletes who suffered concussion injuries while playing for the NCAA. If you believe you were taken advantage of by the NCAA and that the organization failed to protect you or a family member from the dangerous and life-altering side effects of concussion injuries, contact us today.
We can help you hold athletic conferences, the NCAA, and colleges responsible for their actions. It’s common knowledge that repeated brain trauma can cause long-term and life-changing conditions, and we believe that student-athletes deserve to receive compensation for the injuries they sustained while playing sports for the NCAA. These former players deserve much more than medical monitoring.
Student-athletes who were never informed of the risks of concussion and not protected from the dangers of this brain trauma have the right to seek compensation for their injuries. We stand ready to fight for you and to help you get the compensation you deserve.
Interview with the Attorney
NCAA concussion litigation is ongoing before Judge John Z. Lee in the Northern District of Illinois. Pulaski Law Firm is actively involved in the litigation – IN RE: NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION STUDENT-ATHLETE CONCUSSION INJURY LITIGATION- SINGLE SPORT (FOOTBALL) and currently represents more than 5,000 former student-athletes. Here we discuss several aspects of the litigation, including time-sensitive issues.
Question: What’s the most important thing readers should know right off the bat?
Attorney Pulaski: Everyone has a certain time limit in which their claim must be filed. This deadline is based on several factors like what state you live in, where you played football, and when you suffered the injury or learned that you have a continuing injury related to the concussion/head trauma you sustained while playing collegiate football. If this deadline is missed, you will be barred from a bringing a claim forever.
Question: Do players need to be diagnosed before talking with you?
Attorney Pulaski: Players do not have to have a diagnosis before talking with us, but we will need a diagnosis to file a claim. When we start a claim, we review all the information our clients provide us, in addition to any medical records related to their concussion and subsequent related injuries. So, if you want to bring a case, it is very important that you see a medical professional for diagnosis. We are happy to help you set up appointments if you need us to do so.
Question: What types of issues do you see in the litigation?
Attorney Pulaski: Unfortunately, we are seeing that student-athletes who sustained head trauma or concussion injuries while playing football and other collegiate sports are suffering from a rather wide-range of injuries and in almost every case, the injury is chronic.
Question: How much does it cost to file a claim?
Attorney Pulaski: We do not charge clients to file a claim. Look, we have committed a large amount of resources and time to this litigation because we believe that former student players who suffered these injuries may be justly entitled to compensation that they may otherwise never receive.
There are no guarantees in any litigation, but our firm is spending its own money, and it’s time to investigate and prosecute these claims with the full understanding that if we can’t obtain a settlement for these players they will never be responsible for paying us to reimburse our costs or time.