Both NFL and collegiate athletes have brought claims against the NFL and NCAA, alleging that players were not warned about the dangers of traumatic brain injury resulting from repeated blows to the head. These players claim to have suffered the long term effects of brain injury, including dementia, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is a chronic degenerative brain disorder.
In the midst of this litigation, the Journal of Neurosurgery released the results of a five-year study on the effectiveness of football helmets in preventing brain injury. Here are some key findings:
- Two helmets, both manufactured by Riddell, varied in their effectiveness against head injury. The "Revolution" model had a 53.9% reduced conussion risk when compared to the "VSR" model.
- Actual concussion rates are about two to ten times greater than diagnosed concussion rates, which confirms findings from prior studies.
- No helmet can completely prevent a concussion from occurring in football.
As the collegiate and NFL litigation moves forward, studies like this will play a key role in the litigation. An injured Plaintiff, in this case, the football players, bear the burden of proving that the repeated blows to the head caused the traumatic brain injury. Players also have to prove that helmet manufacturers or league officials were aware of the risk of long term injury, and under the law, were required to warn the players about those risks, and take necessary precautions.
Regardless of the outcome of any of these cases, youth programs, high school programs, and college football programs are changing the way they manage their players.