The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has settled a class-action lawsuit brought by former college athletes claiming to have been injured by concussions during college play. In the proposed settlement in the US District Court in Chicago, the NCAA, the governing body for college sports, will set aside $70 million for the treatment of injured players, and adopt a policy guiding coaches and players as to when current athletes can return to play if they’ve suffered a concussion.
The payout of this settlement is structured differently than the proposed NFL concussion settlement, where the funds will go directly to injured players. The NCAA agreement and $70 million will not go directly to players, but will require individual players to sue separately to make a case for their need for compensation.
The settlement fund applies to current and former college athletes who played contact sports at the more than 1000 NCAA-member colleges, including football, basketball, ice hockey, field hockey, soccer, wrestling and lacrosse.
10 Lawsuits and a Year of Negotiations
The lead plaintiff was Eastern Illinois football player Adrian Arrington, who played his last college football game in 2009. CNN reports that he had been having “weekly seizures, migraines and blackouts from previous concussions on the field.”
In the last game he played, after he was hit so hard that he walked sideways off the field, the coach still wanted to put him back in the game. Arrington’s Dad had to yell at the coach: “He’s not going back in the game! He’s had too many concussions! He’s done playing football!”
Ten different suits were filed, and eventually consolidated in Chicago federal court. Arrington said he had five concussions while playing ball – some were so bad that he couldn’t recognize his parents afterwards. Since leaving college, he has suffered headaches, memory loss, seizures and depression.
NCAA Admits No Wrongdoing
The settlement allows the NCAA to admit no wrongdoing. Plaintiffs estimate that there may be tens of thousands of athletes who will take the tests to measure whether they suffered long-term damage from college head trauma.
The plaintiffs noted a NCAA survey from 2010 that shows nearly half of college trainers routinely put athletes who suffered concussions back into the same game. NCAA data shows that nearly 30,000 concussions were reported in the period from 2004 to 2009.
In 2010, the NCAA required schools to adopt concussion management plans and to keep players out at least one day after a concussion. But plaintiffs argued that the NCAA didn’t enforce the policy, which allowed coaches to continue sending injured players back to play in the same games. During a deposition, a NCAA official said he had no knowledge of any schools being disciplined for not enforcing concussion policies.
The agreement also requires the NCAA to have all current college athletes undertake a baseline neurological test at the start of each season to help medical staff measure the impact of any injury during the year.