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Thirty-eight former professional football players are suing the National Football League for workers compensation due to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a lifelong and debilitating brain injury caused by repeated head trauma.
The condition was once only diagnosable in dead players, but according to the lawsuit filed Nov. 21 in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, “living CTE has now become clinically diagnosable," and the players want their 32 former teams named in the lawsuit and the NFL to acknowledge recent medical advances and pay workers comp.
The lawsuit states that players “have sustained excessive and undue occupational head trauma, including severe concussions and frequent sub-concussive head injuries, which have unquestionably occurred" as employees for the NFL. The players claim that their employers “routinely failed to care for (their) repetitive head injuries during their careers in any medically competent or meaningful manner that complied with any known published contact sports return-to-play guidelines at the time in which the injuries occurred.”
The lawsuit draws a comparison to the way amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as Lou Gerhrig’s disease, is diagnosed. “Essentially, living-CTE has now become clinically diagnosable to the same extent that living-ALS has become recognized as being clinically diagnosable,” the players said in their lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks declaratory relief for living NFL players who are seeking workers comp benefits from their former employers for “being unduly exposed to and sustaining repeated head trauma” and the subsequent fatal degenerative brain disorder that manifests as latent onset diagnoses of chronic traumatic encephalopathy – injuries that occurred during their NFL employment or resulted from it.
In their lawsuit, the players demand a jury trial and want the NFL and the workers comp boards to acknowledge CTE as a “distinct occupational disease” with a “latent manifestation” that shows up in clinical diagnoses many years after players retire.
Among the plaintiffs in the suit are 49-year-old Dexter Carter, who played for the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Jets; 39-year-old Corey Simon, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles, the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans; and 52-year-old Ernest Givins, who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars. All their former teams are listed as defendants.
The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A federal appeals court on Monday approved a class action settlement that may cost the National Football League $1 billion.