The NHL might be headed to court regarding concussions and it's role in protecting and treating players.
On Monday the Associated Press reported that 10 former players filed a lawsuit in Washington DC, saying that the league hasn't done enough to protect the players regarding concussions over the years.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in Washington, seeks damages to be determined at trial. The players are also seeking court-approved medical monitoring for their brain trauma and/or injuries, which they blame on their NHL careers.
The suit comes just three months after the National Football League agreed to pay $765 million to settle lawsuits from thousands of former players who developed dementia or other concussion-related health problems.
Here is a lttle more detail on the specific claims per Reuters (via Yahoo):
The players point out in their claim that the NHL has refused to ban fighting while team rosters often include "enforcers" whose main function is to fight.
The claim also states that the NHL purposefully concealed the risks of brain injuries and exposed players to unnecessary dangers they could have avoided.
Interesting to see fighting included in the lawsuit. It has been a very hot topic over the years and all the while the players have overwhelmingly argued -- and voted -- to keep fighting in the game as a necessary aspect.
You can see the entire lawsuit as filed in Washington on Monday here (.PDF file).
The 10 plaintiffs: Gary Leeman, Bradley Aitken, Darren Banks, Curt Bennett, Richard Dunn, Warren Holmes, Robert Manno, Blair James Stewart, Morris Titanic and Richard Vaive.
Later on Monday, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly released the following statement on behalf of the league.
"We are aware of the class action lawsuit filed today in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of a group of former NHL Players. While the subject matter is very serious, we are completely satisfied with the responsible manner in which the League and the Players' Association have managed Player safety over time, including with respect to head injuries and concussions. We intend to defend the case vigorously and have no further comment at this time."
After seeing former NFL players settle a large class-action suit against that league earlier this year, it felt like only a matter of time before this happened in hockey, too. Concussions are as big of an issue in hockey as they are in football.
The stem of the complaint is that the NHL knew of the dangers of concussions but didn't do enough to protect the players. The league didn't start a concussion program until 1997 and even with the mounting evidence, the complaint states, it waited until just recently to ammend the rules to try and further protect players.
It's really too early to read much of anything into this so I won't try. It is worth noting though that the NHL feels it's been at the fore of concussion support for players over the years and has been strong on its stance. It has certainly been a big focus in recent years as some measures such as grandfathering in mandatory visors and the altering of the language of rules to legislate against head shots. Of course, that doesn't do much for incidents that happened prior to the recent seasons and measures that were enacted.
Perhaps the number of athletes will grow but at 10 (I would peg that as likely), it's obviously a small fraction of former athletes. Every player I've spoken to about this matter has said that they understand the risks that come along with playing the game and that includes concussions. Obviously that doesn't go for every player out there, though.
This is going to be a big story in the NHL for a while and will be a big fight just like it was in the NFL, especially if/when more players join the class-action lawsuit.