Ex-players accuse NFL of fraud over concussions

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Associated Press

Posted on January 19, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 19 at 6:07 PM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — NFL officials conspired to hide evidence linking concussions to dementia and brain disease, seven retired players charge in the latest lawsuit filed on the subject.

The fraud and negligence lawsuit filed in Philadelphia accuses the National Football League of publishing nonscientific papers written by biased members of its medical committee, while denouncing valid research that suggested a link.

The plaintiffs include former Philadelphia Eagles Ron Solt, who suffers from substantial memory loss, and Rich Miano, a University of Hawaii assistant coach who is asymptomatic but seeks medical monitoring.

At least eight similar lawsuits have been filed in New York, New Jersey, Georgia and Florida. Two-time Super Bowl champion Jim McMahon and more than 100 other players have signed on, citing symptoms that range from occasional memory problems to depression to degenerative brain disease.

"Rather than warn players that they risked permanent brain injury if they returned to play too soon after sustaining a concussion, the NFL actively deceived players, by misrepresenting to them that concussions did not present serious, life-altering risks," charges the suit filed Wednesday, the third to be filed in Philadelphia.

The NFL will ask federal judges next week to consolidate the cases there before U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody, who has experience with multi-district litigation and was assigned the first NFL concussion case last summer.

In that case, the league argues the suit should be dismissed on grounds the claims are barred under the players' collective bargaining agreements. They've also moved to block players' lawyers from taking wide-ranging depositions, at least early on, as the plaintiffs seek to keep the case alive.

"Plaintiffs may not seek extensive, merits-based discovery in order to salvage their insufficiently pleaded claims," the NFL wrote in a filing this month.

The players in that suit include former Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Brent Boyd, described by his lawyers as the only living player diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The degenerative brain disease, known as CTE, has typically been found in autopsies of people who have had multiple head injuries, including more than a dozen former NFL and NHL players.

In the suit Wednesday, the 50-year-old Solt, of Wilkes-Barre, said he lives with substantial memory loss and ringing in the ears after suffering at least one concussion in his 10 NFL seasons, which included a stint with the Eagles from 1988 to 1991.

Panos, 41, of Okauchee, Wis., an NFL lineman from 1994 to 2000, said he sustained multiple concussions with the Eagles and Buffalo Bills, and suffers from headaches, memory loss, irritability, rage, mood swings and sleeplessness.

Miano, 49, of Honolulu, spent a decade as a defensive back from 1985 and 1995 with the Eagles, Atlanta Falcons and the New York Jets.

The suit seeks more than $5 million on behalf of the seven named players, four spouses and other ex-players who may join the potential class action.

The league rejects allegations that it failed to protect its players.

"The NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to take steps to protect players and to advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions," spokesman Brian McCarthy said Thursday in a statement. "The NFL has never misled players with respect to the risks associated with playing football."

According to Locks, the NFL takes in $9.3 billion in revenues each year, while its 32 teams are valued at $800 million to more than $1 billion apiece.

The cost of caring for older players and monitoring their health is slim by comparison, he said.

"They're not that expensive compared to what the league makes," Locks said.

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