SBD/February 24, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Family Of Late NFLer Dave Duerson Suing League For His '11 Suicide

The family of late former NFLer Dave Duerson is suing the league, "blaming the organization for his 2011 suicide," according to Lisa Donovan of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The suit against the NFL and helmet-maker Riddell, Inc. "accuses the NFL of knowing the harmful effects of the repeated concussions Duerson suffered on the field but concealing them from the career safety -- during his football career and even after, leading to a mental health spiral, and eventually, his suicide." The suit also "criticizes the NFL’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee -- an advisory group formed in 1994 -- for allegedly misleading players and retirees about the long-term health effects of concussions." The suit states the NFL "embarked upon a propaganda scheme designed to mislead NFL players and retirees" about the long-term effects of concussions and other brain trauma (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/24). In Chicago, Todd Lighty notes the suit "identifies six other former players who reportedly suffered brain damage from playing football and later committed suicide" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/24). The NFL in a statement said, "We have not seen the lawsuit and therefore our attorneys have not had an opportunity to review it. Dave Duerson was an outstanding football player and citizen who made so many positive contributions but unfortunately encountered serious personal challenges later in his life. We sympathize with the Duerson family and continue to be saddened by this tragedy" (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).

PART OF A BIGGER ISSUE: In Chicago, Dan Pompei writes, "No matter how this suit is settled, it is part of something bigger that is happening to the NFL." The same "violent collisions that made the NFL grow into" a $9.5B business "could one day force the league to shrivel." It seems the "bigger and stronger players get, the smaller and more vulnerable the league might become." A source said that "not counting Duerson's family, there are currently 657 retired players suing the league for concussion-related issues." A federal judge in Philadelphia had "consolidated the 657 complaints into 18 lawsuits." Pompei writes of the 657 cases, "You can bet none are anywhere near as strong as Duerson's." The difference in Duerson's case is that his was the "only brain that was studied and found to have advanced brain damage called chronic traumatic encephalopathy" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/24).

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