PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Lisa McHale wishes her husband had lived long enough to learn more about the links between concussions and long-term brain injuries.
Her husband Tom, an All-Ivy athlete who played in 87 NFL games from 1987 to 1995, died of an overdose in 2008 after battling depression and a painkiller addiction. An autopsy later showed he suffered from traumatic brain injuries. But she said it helps that more players now go public with their neurological problems, including some of the thousands now suing the NFL over concussions.
"To know it wasn't his fault, that there was something going on neurologically, it helps," McHale said in Philadelphia on Tuesday, where lawyers for the NFL and for more than 4,200 former players argued over whether the complaints belong in federal court or, as the NFL believes, in arbitration.
A lawyer for the former players argued that the NFL "glorified" violence and profited from damaging hits to the head.
Players' lawyer David Frederick also accused the league of concealing the emerging science linking concussions to neurological problems for decades, even after the NFL created a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee in 1994. The panel was led by a rheumatologist.
"It set up a sham committee designed to get information about neurological risks, but in fact spread misinformation," Frederick argued at the pivotal federal hearing to determine if the complaints will remain in federal court.
U.S. District Judge Anita Brody's decision could be worth billions to either side.
About one-third of the league's 12,000 former players have joined the litigation. Some are battling dementia, depression or Alzheimer's disease, and fault the league for rushing them back on the field after concussions. Others are worried about future problems and want their health monitored.
A handful, including popular Pro Bowler Junior Seau, have committed suicide.
NFL lawyer Paul Clement insisted that teams bear the chief responsibility for health and safety under the players' collective bargaining agreement, along with the players and their union.
"The clubs are the ones who had doctors on the sidelines who had primary responsibility for sending players back into the game," Clement said at a news conference after the court hearing.
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