NEW YORK (AP) — Scores of lawsuits involving thousands of former players touched by concussions and brain injuries have been consolidated into one master complaint, setting up a massive and potentially costly case for the NFL.
Lawyers for the players filed the complaint Thursday in Philadelphia, accusing the NFL of hiding information that linked football-related head trauma to permanent brain injuries. Among the illnesses cited were dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
The plaintiffs hope to hold the NFL responsible for the care of players suffering from those health problems.
"The NFL must open its eyes to the consequences of its actions," said Kevin Turner, a former running back with the Patriots and Eagles who has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). "The NFL has the power not only to give former players the care they deserve, but also to ensure that future generations of football players do not suffer the way that many in my generation have."
Also named in the suit was helmet-maker Riddell, Inc.
The suit accuses the NFL of "mythologizing" and glorifying violence through the media, including its NFL Films division.
"The NFL, like the sport of boxing, was aware of the health risks associated with repetitive blows producing sub-concussive and concussive results and the fact that some members of the NFL player population were at significant risk of developing long-term brain damage and cognitive decline as a result," the complaint charges.
"Despite its knowledge and controlling role in governing player conduct on and off the field, the NFL turned a blind eye to the risk and failed to warn and/or impose safety regulations governing this well-recognized health and safety problem."
In response, the NFL cited the many health programs it runs for current and former players, and a series of medical benefits to former NFL players to help them after football. Those include joint replacement, neurological evaluations and spine treatment programs, assisted living partnerships, long-term care insurance, prescription benefits, life insurance programs, and a Medicare supplement program.
"The NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so," the league said in a statement. "Any allegation that the NFL sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league's many actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions."
The league added that in partnership with the NFL Players Association it has spent more than a billion dollars on pensions, medical and disability benefits for retired players.
Turner, however, sees little positive coming from those programs.
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