More Professional Athletes File Suits for Sports-Related Head Traumas

A group of former hockey players are seeking financial compensation for head injuries they sustained while playing in the NHL.

Retired NHL players Dave Christian, Reed Larson and William Bennett are hoping to target the violence in hockey where they believe their injuries were sustained. The players filed a class-action lawsuit last week alleging that the National Hockey League promoted fighting while subsequently downplaying the risks for head injuries associated with the [promoted] violence.

Charles Zimmerman, who filed the class action lawsuit on behalf of the three players, stated that ultimately a change to glorified violence in the game is what may come of the lawsuit. This lawsuit is similar to the one brought forth by former NFL players who are seeking monetary compensation for their long-term injuries which resulted from repeated head traumas, as well as increased medical monitoring. The NHL’s deputy commissioner Bill Daily said that the organization is not surprised by the lawsuit.

“As we have indicated earlier, another lawsuit of this type is not unexpected,” Daily said. “It’s the nature of these types of cases that once one is filed, a number of similarly styled cases follow. Nothing changes our belief that all of these cases are without merit and they will be defended accordingly.”

Currently there is a $765 million settlement pending against the NFL, which still needs approval by the case’s judge. Last Thursday, U.S. District Judge Anita Brody said she fears the $765M fund might not be sufficient enough to cover the thousands of victims impacted by head traumas. Judge Brody ordered both parties to address several issues with the settlement, which had been preliminarily agreed upon last summer. Many also believe that the attention of this case has prompted NHL players to seek damages relating to concussive injuries.

Zimmerman said that the main aspect of his clients’ case against the organization is that there is “knowledge that these types of injuries were known and protections were not put in place appropriately enough or fast enough and rules changes were not implemented in fighting.” He argued that his clients and other present athletes were (and are) at risk of suffering serious injuries because of the demands of their sport. He believes rules ultimately need to be changed and that his clients should be compensated for being exposed to unaddressed risks.

According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit alleges “the NHL hid or minimized concussion risks from its players, thereby putting them at a substantially higher risk for developing memory loss, depression, cognitive difficulties, and even brain related diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.”

The argument that separates the NFL litigation from the NHL case is the fighting and that “by engaging in fighting, players willfully take on the health risks that could come from that.”

“You could make that argument only to a point,” Zimmerman told the AP. “And the point is that the fighting arena would not exist and would be outlawed as it is in every other level of the game had the NHL not condoned it and sold tickets based upon it and promoted the sport in that way. It’s not the players that promote the sport in that way because the players don’t implement the rules. It’s the league that implements the rules. If they would outlaw fighting, there wouldn’t be people who would fight.”

Zimmerman stated that he believes more NHL players will join the litigation, similar to how the group of plaintiffs in the NFL case grew exponentially as the case progressed.

“The light went on for them as the football players’ story was becoming more told,” Zimmerman said. “I think the hockey players started to see that their story was going to be heard and told. It’s not that we haven’t known about football players or hockey players getting hurt. It’s now become more important that we talk about it and do something about it rather than just benignly let it continue into the future.”

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