NFL Responds to Player Lawsuits

In response to the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) supported mega-suit discussed in a previous blog post, the NFL released a statement: “Our legal team will review today’s filing that is intended to consolidate plaintiffs’ existing claims into one ‘master’ complaint,” The statement went on to read, “the NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so. Any allegation that the NFL sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league’s many actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions.”  The NFL then filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuits, including the mega-suit, and the players countered, in a brief filed in US District Court, by disputing efforts by the NFL to frame the cases as a labor issue. Their argument was that the legal system, rather than the sport’s collective bargaining agreements, should govern this exceptional case.

DOD and DVA to Intensively Study PTSD and mTBI

In recent years there has been a lack of clear criteria within the military for diagnosis and treatment of PTSD and this resulted in the reversal of close to 40 percent of PTSD diagnoses.  There is some evidence that 15-20% of all returning combatants from OEF/OIF and Afghanistan have PTSD, and this has led to a concerted effort by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) to improve the situation.

It was recently announced that traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will begin using new criteria for diagnosis and treatment in the military, DOD, and by DVA at VA hospitals. Both the DOD and DVA announced last month an investment of more than $100 million for research into improving diagnosis and treatment of mild TBI (mTBI) and PTSD. Two groups, the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD (CAP) and the Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium (CENC) will be jointly managed by VA, and by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), on behalf of the DOD. According to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Jonathan Woodson, “these consortia will bring together leading scientists and researchers devoted to the health and welfare of our nation’s service members and veterans.” He added, “a primary goal of CENC is to

As reported in Time online:
– For PTSD, CAP “will study potential indicators of the trauma, as well as prevention strategies, possible interventions, and improved treatments. Biomarker-based research will be a key factor in CAP’s studies,” the CDMRP says. PTSD afflicts some troops after combat tours, and causes anxiety, depression and other mental ills.

– For mTBI, CENC will try “to establish an understanding of the after-effects of a mTBI. Potential comorbidities also will be studied; that is, conditions associated with and worsen because of a neurotrauma,” the CDMRP says. TBI is a physical wound – a concussion – usually suffered by troops near the shock waves of an improvised explosive device. It can bruise the brain and cause mood changes, fatigue and sleeping more – or less – than usual.

Players Accuse NFL in Mega-Suit

With growing concern over the long-term effects of concussions and mTBI sustained by NFL players, as of May 25, 2012, eighty-one lawsuits had been filed with 2,138 former NFL players as plaintiffs, and 3,356 plaintiffs that included players, their spouses and other relatives. On June 7, 2012 a mega-suit, bringing these and others together, was filed in US District Court. The mega-suit stated that “after voluntarily assuming a duty to investigate, study, and truthfully report to the public and NFL players, including the Plaintiffs, the medical risks associated with MTBI in football, the NFL instead produced industry-funded, biased, and falsified research that falsely claimed that concussive and sub-concussive head impacts in football do not present serious, life-altering risks.” 

In response, the NFL released statements about many health programs run by the NFL for current and former players, along with medical benefits available to former players, including joint and traumatic arthritic-related programs such as joint replacement, and neurological evaluations and spine treatment programs. In addition, the NFL provides assisted-living partnerships, long-term care insurance, prescription benefits, life insurance programs, and a Medicare supplement program. The Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, created by the NFL in 1994, recently published a general neurologic medicine article on Medscape entitled Repetitive Head Injury Syndrome.