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Jim Lewis
Jim Lewis
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Concussion Litigation Picks Up Against National Hockey League

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As the ongoing concussion litigation battle between the NFL and thousands of its former players continues to experience upheaval, another professional sports league is finding itself in an increasingly similar predicament.

The New York Times revealed earlier last week that four former NHL players have jointed a preexisting concussion lawsuit against the league. The four players now join nine others who sued the NHL late last year. The suit alleges that the NHL collectively failed to address the potentially life-threatening health risks posed by the severe head injuries routinely suffered by professional hockey players.

Specifically, the players say that officials with the National Hockey League knew about the dangers of head trauma and should have taken action years ago to mitigate the damage caused to players. Additionally, the suits allege that the league is responsible for contributing to the injuries suffered by players by helping to create a culture of violence in the game of professional hockey. By refusing to ban fighting and allowing teams to employ “enforcers” whose sole responsibility is to scuffle with opposing teams, the NHL has embraced a violent way of playing the game that left players vulnerable to serious harm.

The additional claims against the NHL come as the $765 million settlement with the NFL continues to wind its way through the court system. In that case, more than 4,000 retired players brought suit against the NFL claiming that it was aware of the dangers that could be caused by repeated blows to the head, yet failed to take action to either warn or protect its players. Similar claims are also pending against the NCAA.

The commissioner of the NHL has said since late last year that the league is committed to defending the case vigorously. No one from the league responded to the recent lawsuit. Though the overall number of players suing the NHL is far fewer than the number currently suing the NFL, it is still early days and many experts believe that as the NFL concussion settlement shakes itself out, it may prompt players in a variety of professional sports leagues to come forward seeking financial compensation for the injuries they suffered.

CA