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Duly Noted

Friday, Dec 30, 2011, 12:12 pm

Former Football Pros Sue NFL En Masse Over Concussions

By Lindsay Beyerstein

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sillydog, Creative Commons.

The NFL is facing legal action from former players who say they weren't told about the neurological dangers of concussions:

More than a dozen suits, filed since July on behalf of more than 120 retired players and their wives, say that the N.F.L. and in some cases helmet manufacturers deliberately concealed information about the neurological effects of repeated hits to the head. Several suits also say that even if the league did not know about the potential impact of brain trauma sustained on the field, it should have known.

Repeated concussions can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease linked to depression, impaired impulse control, personality changes, and dementia. Journalist Malcolm Gladwell helped make CTE a household word with his classic New Yorker essay, "Offensive Play: How Different are Dogfighting and Football?"

The players accuse the NFL of waging a denialist campaign to downplay the effects of head trauma long after it was clear that repeated confussions turned players' brains to mush in middle age. They say the league appointed hand-picked experts to cast doubt on the link between concussions and CTE.

With notable exceptions these symptoms don't show up until a player's mid-thirties or forties, long after most players have retired. The NFL is trying to keep the CTE lawsuits out of court by arguing that they should be dealt with through collective bargaining agreements. The players counter that they retired a long time ago and are no longer subject to those agreements.


Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (, a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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