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Football Player


In a somber reminder of what’s at risk for today’s professional football players, a number of sources have reported that NFL standout John Abraham is considering retirement following a concussion suffered in the 3rd quarter of the Arizona Cardinals‘ season opener against the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football.  Multiple sources, including ESPN’s Adam Schefter, have reported that Abraham has suffered from memory loss for several years and this latest concussion is likely the final straw.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, though, has tried to downplay the concussion problem while claiming Monday’s concussion was Abraham’s first and saying “[t]here’s many issues that could be involved.”


Abraham’s teammates, however, expressed serious doubts that this was Abraham’s first concussion.  Abraham is a 15-year veteran and the league’s active career sack leader with 133.5 sacks.

“Playing this game everybody’s had multiple concussions.  Whether or not they’re diagnosed is something totally different.  I’m pretty sure he’s had multiple concussions throughout his career like we all have.  This was probably his first documented one.”

– Lorenzo Alexander, Abraham’s teammate via The Associated Press

A number of former NFL players – including All-Pro Junior Seau – have been found to suffer CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  CTE develops when a football player suffers blows to the head.  The disease is progressive, meaning that former players continue to deteriorate even after they’ve stopped playing.  CTE symptoms include:

  • memory loss
  • confusion
  • impaired judgment
  • impulse control problems
  • aggression
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • suicidality,
  • parkinsonism
  • progressive dementia

While some players have been found to have progressive CTE, most often, CTE does not occur until years after a player’s career has ended.  More frequently, players and former players suffer from post-concussion syndrome.  Symptoms include:

  • memory loss
  • loss of concentration
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • noise and light sensitivity

NFLPA Concussion Lawsuits

More than a dozen former NFL players have filed concussion injury lawsuits against the NFLPA.  These players claim the Players Association was aware of concussion dangers for decades, but ignored and hid the risks from players.

According to the Complaints filed against the NFLPA, the players association “had unparalleled access to and knowledge of data relating to the relationship between head impacts on football players and cognitive decline.  This access to and knowledge of data [came] from the NFLPA’s awareness of the growing body of scientific literature on the subject, its own medical consultants, its own requested and commissioned studies on the subject, its participation in the Retirement Board of the Bert Bell/Peter Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan (“Retirement Plan”), and its participation in the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee (the “MTBI Committee”).”

The claims brought against the NFLPA are different from those alleged against the NFL itself in other litigation.  Players with claims against the NFL are not precluded from bringing claims against the NFLPA and may participate in both cases.

“Sadly, the players association knew for years about the medical science behind the dangers of the game, and in spite of their promises to do what was in the best interest of their members, they joined the league in hiding those dangers from everyone.  These former pro players should be proud of themselves for stepping up, because they’re standing up and saying that they would have behaved differently if the players association hadn’t been complicit with the league in hiding their full knowledge from them. If this action through the court system would have been available to me when I was just out of the league, I would have been alongside them as part of the lawsuit.”

– Jim Kearney, starting safety for the Super Bowl IV Champion Kansas City Chiefs

The NFLPA concussion lawsuits also name NFLPA executive director, DeMaurice Smith, who told Congress under oath that “for far too long, our former players were left adrift [and] we were complicit in the lack of leadership….”

“We believe that the most important resource in the NFL is the players, and the most essential part of the player’s body is the brain.  Considering the millions of dollars received as dues from NFLPA members, the NFLPA did not do enough to protect its members from traumatic brain injury.”

– Kevin Regan, an attorney for the former NFL players

Mike Florio, writing for NBC Sports, has noted that all of the previous concussion lawsuits “curiously omitted the group that was in the best position… to protect all players from the shell game pro football allegedly was playing regarding the long-term risks of head injuries.”  Florio went on say that “ammunition for attacking the NFLPA has existed from the moment the notion of suing over concussions first gained traction….”

Former NFL players are continuing to sign up to join this litigation.  Additional information, copies of pleadings, answers to frequently asked questions, and contact information for the attorneys fighting for these players can be found at

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© Copyright 2014 Brett A. Emison

Follow @BrettEmison on Twitter

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