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10 Ex-NHLers file Concussion Lawsuit

We all saw this coming.

On Monday, 10 ex-NHLers filed a class action lawsuit against the league and its board of governors. The plaintiffs feel as though the NHL did not properly treat head injuries, and that they deserve compensation for the lower quality of life they are left with, once the long-term effects of repeated head trauma kicks in.

This is not just about concussions, but also the repeated sub-concussions that are a result of repeated blows to the head. These blows occur very often in games and practice, and can have a devastating impact on brain function.

There’s some interesting stuff in the court filing, one of them mentioning a study done 85 years ago by pathologist Harrison Martland, that looked at boxers and linked blows to the head with degenerative brain disease. Frankly, that leads me to believe that the players should have been at least somewhat aware of the risks they were taking.

The filing also mentions the Concussion Program, started by the NHL in 1997, which was essentially when the NHL first started keeping track of concussions, and the first time the league installed baseline brain testing procedures. The NHL then studied the results, which spanned up until the end of the 2003-2004.

According to the players, the League didn’t do a good enough job with these studies, and was dishonest about the results, which were only released in 2011. The players feel as though they were not warned adequately about the risks they undertook. If they can prove that the NHL intentionally withheld important information about concussions, sub-concussions, and their long-term effects, then the NHL have truly have something to worry about.

Predictably, the NHL disagrees with the players, and will most likely put up a fight through the media, defending their actions (or lack of action) before settling the case with a large sum of money. This all comes three months after the NFL settled a very similar lawsuit with 450 ex-players for $756 million, so there is a precedent for this type of case.

While not always known, the long-term effects of repeated trauma to the head can be devastating. Research is still ongoing and the possibility of certain genetic traits being more susceptible to concussions is being explored in numerous studies. For the NHL, it is now undertaking the difficult task of making the game safer, while not alienating the demographic of fans who are drawn to the violence and toughness the sport of hockey has to offer.

For many former athletes, the lingering effects of blows to the head significantly hamper their quality of life. Memory loss, mood swings, and a decrease in cognitive ability are just some of the symptoms they have to deal with. They surely knew their occupation brought with it some dangers, but perhaps not at this scale. Many of the coaches who played players who were suffering from brain injuries were probably former players themselves.

For those wondering, the actual ten players who filed the lawsuit are: Gary Leeman, Brad Aitken, Darren Banks, Curt Bennett, Richie Dunn, Warren Holmes, Bob Manno, Blair Stewart, Morris Titanic, Ric Vaive. It will be interesting to see who else joins in.


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