As the Baltimore Ravens prepare to battle it out next week with the San Francisco 49ers, a very different type of football-related battle begins. The family of Junior Seau, a former linebacker for the NFL, filed suit today against the NFL. The family claims that Seau’s suicide last May was the result of a brain disease, brought on by repeated blows to the head during his twenty-year career.
Seau, 43 at the time of his death, died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest. Earlier this month, it was determined that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative brain disease that can follow multiple hits to the head according to the National Institutes of Health.
This is not the first of its kind. Last June, more than eighty lawsuits involving thousands of former players who suffered concussions and brain injuries were consolidated into one master complaint. The lawsuit accused 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.
Former players have complained that precautions against brain injuries have only been implemented in recent years, and that players from decades past were exposed to long-term neurological injuries as a result of repeated impacts, often returning to play prematurely after suffering concussions.
Also named in the master complaint, football equipment maker Riddell Inc., the official NFL helmet brand since 1989.
This is an important case and I really feel for Seau’s family. Do I think they will win? No. Do I think they should win? No.