BUFFALO, N.Y. – A Former Chicago Bears quarterback and Super Bowl champion says he, and thousands of other players, were misled about the effects of injuries – specifically head injuries.
McMahon, 56, joined thousands of former football players in a class-action lawsuit against the NFL, which was settled for around $1 billion in April. However, the ‘concussion’ battle is not over yet – and many families opted out of the class-action lawsuit.
“There are still many unknowns when it comes to head injuries,” Buffalo personal injury attorney Ross Cellino said. “Doctors are just now beginning to understand how repeated blows to the head – even if they don’t cause a concussion – can be linked to long-term illnesses.”
Among those who opted out of the lawsuit were relatives of former linebacker Junior Seau, whose suicide in 2012 put a spotlight on head injuries.
Seau, who was 43, shot himself in the chest so that his brain could be analyzed by doctors.
Just one year prior to Seau’s death, former Bears, Giants and Cardinals safety Dave Duerson also died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. A text message sent to his family indicated that he wanted his brain to be used for research at the Boston University School of Medicine, which conducts studies on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenative disease that can lead to the onset of Lou Gehrig’s Disease and dementia, among others.
Researchers determined both Seau and Duerson had developed the trauma-induced disease.
One recent study discovered evidence of CTE in 76 of the 79 former players tested for the disease.
In 1994, an NFL team doctor told Newsday:
“We think of the issue of knees, of drugs and steroids and drinking is a far greater problem (than concussions).”
In 1999, former Steelers Hall of Famer Mike Webster claimed football gave him dementia – and he was spending his final days broke, living in his truck until he died at the age of 50.
Since then, the NFL and other sports organizations have changed their tune.
“Concussions were considered part of the profession, a type of occupational risk – and according to some players, they were told that the pain was ‘all in their head’ so they were given massive doses of painkillers,” Cellino said. “But doctors have found that these injuries slowly destroy a person’s brain.”
Buffalo personal injury attorneys say several sports have made sweeping changes in order to protect students and professionals but many doctors, parents and safety advocates remain concerned.
The $1 billion settlement that was approved in April only covers the benefits for retired football players. And the league did not admit to any wrongdoing. The NFL continues to avoid any acknowledgement of a link between football and degenerative brain diseases.
Experts say the settlement may simply be a ‘starting point’ and as long as athletes suffer from concussions, the risk of long-term illnesses will remain high.