NCAA denies claims in concussion lawsuits from former football players

Class action lawsuit alleges the NCAA profits from athletes while neglecting their well-being

The concussion epidemic in sports seems to be growing in coverage and prominence with every passing day. Head-injury awareness is at a fever pitch now with athletes consistently being carted off fields and relegated to benches and sidelines, and with this new collective concussion consciousness, so too have come a slew of lawsuits.

Yesterday, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) filed a response to claims made in a class action lawsuit that it profited from athletes while neglecting the serious effects of concussions.  

The lawsuit, Arrington v. National Collegiate Athletic Association et al, brought by former Eastern Illinois football player Adrian Arrington, says that for more than 30 years, the NCAA failed its student-athletes by sacrificing their well-being for the sake of money and profit.

Specifically, the suit alleges the NCAA has failed to address coaching methodologies that cause head injuries; not implemented proper head injury screening, detection and treatment practices; and not developed a support system for concussed former players who can no longer play football or lead normal lives.

The suit goes on to note that the NCAA makes more than $740 million in revenue each year, and unlike professional sports organizations, it doesn’t have to pay the players a salary or provide pension or medical benefits for post-collegiate athletes. It also says the NCAA does not provide any financial or medical support for athletes who sustained concussions while playing an NCAA sport.

While the NCAA did not deny the financial component—saying that it made $749.8 million in 2009-2010 and that it doesn’t compensate student-athletes—it did respond to the allegations that it doesn’t require its member institutions to educate their athletes about reporting their concussions and related symptoms.

“Each member institution is responsible for protecting the health of its student-athletes,” the NCAA wrote in the filing, according to Bloomberg. Additionally, the NCAA wrote that “for decades it has provided appropriate information and guidance on concussions to its member institutions,” and that it encourages schools to educate athletes about “symptoms associated with concussions.”

The NCAA also noted that it’s without knowledge of the practices that Arrington and other athletes say proves a failure to enforce safety measures to protect players from concussions.

Student-athletes aren’t the only former players now seeking compensation for concussions. In July, a group of 75 former National Football League (NFL) players filed a suit against the league, claiming it intentionally kept players in the dark about the seriousness of concussions for the past 90 years. The former players claim the NFL “knew as early as the 1920s of the harmful effects on a player's brain of concussions; however, until June of 2010 they concealed these facts from coaches, trainers, players and the public.”

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