Three and Out: The NFL’s Concussion Liability and How Players Can Tackle the Problem

Three and Out: The NFL’s Concussion Liability and How Players Can Tackle the Problem

Jeremy P. Gove · 14 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 649

Abstract

In 1952, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study stating that a player should not continue playing professional football after suffering three concussions. As players continue to get bigger, faster, and stronger, the number of concussions has increased. In response to this problem, the National Football League (NFL) commissioned a study run by scientists and NFL team doctors to determine the long-term effects of concussions. That committee determined that no long-term repercussions exist after experiencing a concussion while playing NFL football. Despite the scientific community’s critiques of the study, the NFL used the committee’s findings to create the league’s return-to-play guidelines, as well as other player safety rules. Further cementing skepticism of the committee’s findings, in 2005, Neurosurgery published an article linking concussions suffered during an NFL player’s career to cognitive deterioration based on autopsy results of a former player.

The NFL vigorously denied the Neurosurgery article’s conclusions and attempted to discredit the writers. The NFL continued to use its flawed committee studies to craft league rules, despite the growing chorus in the medical community citing its flaws. Because the NFL used these findings to craft its safety rules, it exposed the players to unnecessary risk. This Note will show that the NFL acted both negligently and fraudulently towards its players, and the players should file a lawsuit in order to recover compensation for the harm that the league caused them. The players should file this suit in the district of Minnesota in order to capitalize on the district’s previous favorable rulings for the players in the 2011 lockout dispute with the league’s owners. This Note concludes that the players should succeed and win damages first for their pain and suffering, and second, to punish the NFL for its wrongful behavior.