In the 2015 film Concussion, Will Smith stars as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist who becomes embroiled in a legal battle with the National Football League (NFL) over his research about the prevalence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) among professional football players.
Dr. Omalu discovered and named the disease after performing an autopsy on former Steelers center Mike Webster, who died of a heart attack in 2002 inside his pickup truck, where he had been living. Wondering how a 50-year-old and otherwise healthy man could have degenerated so quickly, he examined microscope slides of Webster’s brain and learned the former Steeler had suffered from severe brain damage, later determining the death was caused by repeated blows to the head during Webster’s playing days.
After the NFL initially dismissed his findings, Omalu learns three other former NFL players who passed away a few years after Webster had similar symptoms. Despite his efforts to shine a light on this devastating health condition, the NFL claimed the brain injuries sustained by players were caused by past injuries—not football.
One of the league representatives who vehemently disapproved Omalu’s research was former player Dave Duerson, who had angrily confronted Omalu and even told him to “go back to Africa.” But when Duerson committed suicide a few years later after developing severe cognitive issues, he admitted Omalu was correct and offered his own brain for research.
In 2011, many former players sued the NFL for failing to address the risk of CTE. In 2015, a federal judge approved a potential $1 billion settlement to resolve NFL concussion lawsuits; however, many former players and their families have received reduced payments or none at all since the approval.
Recent Research on CTE
Researchers at the VA-Bu-CLF Brain Bank in Boston University have studied hundreds of brains since 2009 to further understand the degenerative disease. As of today, 110 out of the 111 former NFL players who donated their brains for CTE research were diagnosed with the condition.
Notable players who donated their brains after death include:
- Aaron Hernandez (former tight end for the New England Patriots)
- Junior Seau (former linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots)
- Ken Stabler (former quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, Houston Oilers, and New Orleans Saints)
- Frank Gifford (former offensive and defensive player for the New York Giants)
- Andre Waters (former safety for the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals)
To date, a postmortem autopsy is the only way CTE can be identified. However, symptoms of the disease (e.g. headaches, imbalance, memory loss, confusion, mood swings, vision change, malaise, etc.) are present years prior to death.
According to a report by IQVIA, there has been an average of over 244 concussions per season between 2012 and 2018. Despite the measures the league has taken—such as banning four-man wedge formations and improving the standards of helmets—CTE is still a prevalent problem in today’s game.
How to File an NFL Concussion Lawsuit
At Sam C. Mitchell & Associates, we are helping former NFL players diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, and dementia due to repeated concussions and head injuries. Our legal team will protect your rights and best interests throughout the legal process to obtain the compensation and medical treatment you deserve.
Contact us at (618) 505-1660 today and schedule a free consultation.