Part 1 of 2
Since the close of last year’s National Football League (NFL) season, the media has covered stories about current and former NFL players and their career ending brain injuries. These injuries are often caused by concussions. This epidemic is also prevalent at the college, high school and youth football levels. More and more cases of football players and brain injuries have surfaces, especially over the last year. From little league to the NFL there have been life ending injuries involving football players. These injuries have resulted in a life time of suffering for many former players and their loved ones. Most recently football fans saw the untimely and unfortunate deaths of Junior Seau, and a year before the death of Dave Duerson. Both players were found with gun shot wounds to the chest in what has been classified as suicides in both cases. Less than a month ago, another NFL player killed himself. Orenthal James Murdock, a promising young football player with the Tennessee Titans committed suicide.
The lawyers at the Miami, Fort Lauderdale Law Firm of Berman and Tsombanakis, LLC, along with many avid football fans are saddened by the deaths of these players and we are concerned with how the recent developments, will shape the future of “the game.” Will all of the safety precautions have a positive or negative impact on the game? Will parents think twice when deciding to enroll their very small boys in little league also known as Pop Warner leagues, or will they decide to enroll them in safer sports? How will High Schools, Colleges and Universities across America, alter their rules to ensure the safety of their young players? In the paragraphs below, we will take a look at what recent changes have been implemented by the NFL, NCAA, High School Associations and the little league clubs across America.
Just shortly after last season’s Super Bowl between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots, the country and football fans were floored when news broke that Junior Seau had committed suicide. His girlfriend found him dead with a gun shot wound to the chest. Seau was loved by the people of San Diego. He was raised there and this is the city where he spent the majority of his football career as a San Diego Chargers. The South Florida community was saddened as well. Seau spent some of his last years in the league as a Miami Dolphin. Seau was known around the league as a good guy. He was involved in the community, a good friend, teammate and just an overall good person. What many did not know was that he was a silent sufferer. He had many concussions during his years as a linebacker and suffered with from headaches and other pains as a result of them.
A year before Seau’s death, former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson also committed suicide with a gun shot wound to the chest. Duerson left a final note for his family requesting that his brain be given to the N.F.L.’s brain bank. In the months leading up to Duerson’s death, he had complained of headaches, blurred vision and lost of memory. When the news of Duerson’s death broke and the details of his final letter surfaced, many other families and players came forth about the “silent sufferers.”
One case that is still being investigated is the most recent suicide of Orenthal James Murdock. Murdock who was with the Tennessee Titans and had been out the season before with a foot injury, was believed to have been suffering from depression and some unknown other issues as well. Murdock called his high school coach at 3 a.m. the night before he was found and left a very sad message on his voice mail. He thanked him and apologized to him as well. He was found dead around 8:00 a.m., that same morning in the parking lot of his high school, near Tampa, Florida.
When athletes are put on injured reserved, downgraded to practice squads, and released (cut) from teams, they are in many instances, faced with an array of issues. These issues can subsequently cause their lives to spiral downward very fast, especially if they did not have the proper financial advise to begin with or did not heed said advise. Coupled with prior concussions, which are experienced by a majority of players at least once in their careers, many players end up depressed. Depression that is linked to brain injuries can ultimately lend one to have suicidal thoughts. Lawsuits have surfaced over the past year from former and current players against the NFL in relations to brain injuries and other injuries as well.
There is so much of a concern amongst active players that most recently, Jacob Bell, who played with both the Tennessee Titans and the St. Louis Rams, walked away from the game of football. After 10 years of taking what he stated as “thousands of hits to the head”, Bell left the game. The Junior Seau suicide shook him and many other players to the core and after Seau’s death, he quit and left behind a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.
At the Pop Warner (Optimist-Little League level), concussions and brain injuries a common as well. Practices have been reduce at this level in order to limit the number of brain injuries in children. Under the new rule, which started last month on August 1, contact will not be allowed for two-thirds of each practice. This rule came about after a study was conducted showing that most serious injuries in youth football occurred in practice and not in the actual games. The study further showed that young children can have repetitive brain trauma similar to that sustained at the college level. This brain trauma appears to be more acute, because their brains are not fully developed and require longer rest periods after injuries. Even youth that are in elementary school are playing full contact tackle football and therefore are prone to the same injuries as adult NFL players. Some children have been paralyzed and some have even died while playing football.
The last few years, doctors and high schools across the country have reported an increase in brain injuries at the high school level as well. Heat related deaths are also unfortunately very common at this level and at the college level. NFL facilities appear to be more equipped to handle the varying degrees of weather and have the proper medical staff on hand at practices and games. These heat related deaths are linked to dehydration, nutrition, previous and current health issues and practicing in what has been termed as deadly temperatures on the outside, that in turn increase the bodies temperature on the inside.
In part two, we will continue our discussion on brain injuries and football players. We will take a look at why so many young players make the ultimate sacrifice and continue playing football, even when they have suffered very serious injuries. Also, we will take an in depth look at the long term effects that brain injuries have on football players.
If you or a family member have been hurt or injured in any other type of personal injury case, please email or call one of the lawyers at the Fort Lauderdale Injury and Accident Law Firm of Berman & Tsombanakis LLC. at (954) 764-6099 or (954) 728-8885. We provide free consultations and can meet you at our office in downtown Fort Lauderdale or at your residence or any other location convenient to you. We handle most injury and accident cases on a contingency basis, meaning you do not pay us at all unless there is a financial recovery in your case.