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NCAA & NFL lawsuits raise public awareness about brain injuries

It is nearly impossible these days to follow collegiate or professional sports without also following discussions about traumatic brain injury. The National Football League has been locked in litigation with current and former players over the league’s alleged attempts to hide what it knew about the risks and long-term effects of concussions.

On the collegiate side, the NCAA may have recently reached a preliminary settlement in a class-action lawsuit regarding brain injuries. The allegations made by former college athletes are similar to those made in the NFL case.

The details of the settlement are still being worked out, and not all plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ attorneys are satisfied with the settlement as currently proposed. Critics say that the settlement does not allow for financial compensation for victims who have already filed suit against the NCAA. Athletes would be able to pursue individual lawsuits later, but it would likely be easier for the NCAA to defend against individual claims.

Details aside, it is both promising and noteworthy that brain injuries are receiving this level of legal and media attention. For far too long, concussions have been misunderstood and underestimated. We now realize that few injuries can so drastically and permanently alter a person’s life, and even their personality in some cases.

Hopefully, things like the NCAA and NFL lawsuits will further increase public awareness by keeping the topic of brain injuries in the national spotlight. And as future generations of athletes take the field, we must hope that these lawsuits preserve the games we love while making them much safer.

Source: The New York Times, "N.C.A.A. Deal Revamps Head-Injury Care," Ben Strauss, July 29, 2014

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