Lawsuit Claims Lack of Education Led to NCAA Head Injuries

In July 2016, a federal judge awarded a $75 million settlement of a class-action concussions case against the NCAA, with the money to be used to set up a 50-year, $70 million medical monitoring program for college athletes and a new program “to research the prevention, treatment, and/or effects of concussions.”

A few months later, the NCAA was facing 43 further concussion lawsuits related to the handling of concussions by Division I football programs, filed on behalf of former players from Texas A&M, UCLA, Maryland, Richmond, Idaho, South Carolina, Mississippi, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Alabama and Iowa. Because a judge in a previous case ruled one large class-action concussion lawsuit could not be filed against the NCAA, in the multiple lawsuits players are seeking damages for injuries they claim are the result of mishandled concussions they suffered while playing college football.

The latest lawsuits, filed separately in January in federal courts in Indianapolis and San Francisco, allege that the NCAA (one lawsuit) and helmet maker Riddell (a second lawsuit) failed to protect football players from long-term head injuries and didn’t educate them about the risks. Both seek damages for health care costs, lost wages and other personal injury damages. The Big 12 Conference was listed as co-defendant with the NCAA.

Riddell called the claims ”meritless” and ”sensationalized allegations,” reported The Riddell lawsuit alleges the helmet maker misrepresented the safety of its helmets. The attorneys for the plaintiffs in the cases said the players all suffer from some degree of traumatic brain injuries from multiple concussions, or serious jolts to the head that don’t meet the diagnosis of concussion, and all were incurred while playing football.

In the NCAA lawsuit, former football players allege that the NCAA and the Big 12 ”breached their duty to provide a `safe environment’ and specifically failed to warn players of the long-term risks associated with repeated concussive and sub-concussive hits.” The lawsuit also accuses the NCAA of ”failing to educate players on head injury prevention, failing to timely implement rules of play that would limit head injuries, failing to timely implement return to play rules after concussions occurred, and failing to cover the cost of post-collegiate medical care necessary as a result of the defendants’ bad acts.”

Riddell expressed its outrage over the lawsuit in no uncertain terms in a statement to the Associated Press, targeting ”overt lawyer self-promotion and meritless litigation.” The company added, ”This latest copycat complaint, like the ones preceding it, demonstrates little regard for the implications that sensationalized allegations have on the sport and the millions of people who benefit from it.”

Craig Follis has extensive experience in litigation, negotiating and settling suits, and providing legal opinions on liability and insurance coverage. You can reach him at (888) 703-0109 or via email at

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