Football Helmet Manufacturer to pay Millions to Injured Player

April 22, 2013

Traumatic brain injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report that a Colorado jury recently awarded $11.5 million to an injured football player. His lawsuit argued that Riddell Helmets was at fault for his brain injuries for failing to warn players about the potential dangers of concussions.

Since 1989 Riddell has been the official helmet provider to the NFL and for many high schools programs nationwide. The company is now in the midst of the football league's current concussion litigation, along with being named in several high school players' lawsuits. This most recent case could be considered a preface to these pending NFL lawsuits.

332545_high_school_football.jpg In 2008, a high school football player, Rhett Ridolfi, sustained a head injury during a football drill. Despite numerous complaints of headaches, his coaches allowed him to continue playing that afternoon. A few hours later he was hospitalized, is now permanently paralyzed on the left side of his body, and suffers from severe brain damage.

Ridolfi, now 22, sued Riddell along with several high school administrators and football coaches for his brain injuries. Riddell was ordered to pay $3.1 million of the $11.5, or 27%. Several of the coaches were found negligent, but were not ordered to pay any damages. The jury determined that, while Riddell's helmets are not defectively designed, it did fail to warn players about the dangers of concussions.

A similar NFL case is expected to begin in May 2013 in Los Angeles. During this trial, more than 4,000 former players and their spouses will sue the league alleging that it knew about and purposefully concealed the long-term health effects linked to repeated concussions and head injuries. Riddell is also named in the lawsuit.

In late 2010, a neurologist at the University of Texas at Dallas scanned the brains of a few dozen NFL players, to document the effects a career of getting hit in the head had on their brains functioning. Since, the neurologist has recruited more than 50 retired NFL players for a study tracking their mental health and brain connections.

In the same year, the NFL gave Boston University a million dollars to research C.T.E. in the autopsies of former players. C.T.E. stands for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease associated with the buildup of a particular protein in the brain and linked to a host of cognitive symptoms, such as dementia and aggression. As of 2012, those researchers had found C.T.E. evidence in 33 out of 34 brains tested.

The neurologists' latest batch of findings, which was presented in April 2013, showed that the studied former NFL players were more likely to have depression and memory problems than non-athletes of the same age. His data also found that these effects were directly linked to the damage done to their brain during their careers, which manifest in small white bundles of matter.

All the complaints filed in the pending NFL lawsuit are based on head injuries suffered during the players' careers. Some cognitive complications include paranoia, panic attacks, and early-onset Alzheimer's. It will be argued whether or not the NFL actively tried to disprove these findings, or withheld scientific and medical information about the long-term risks of playing the game.

One article, written in 2009, will certainly not help the NFL's case. In the article, Jeanne Marie Laskas describes a 2005 incident in which the NFL's Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee attempted to retract a prestigious peer-reviewed article from the journal Neurosurgery. The article used scientific evidence to prove that repeated blows to the head, such as those sustained in football, could cause severe and debilitating brain damage.

Traumatic brain injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins highlight this issue to make parents and children aware of the very real dangers associated with repeated hits to the head. Not just football players are at risk: snowboarders, skiers, soccer players, and boxers all need to be aware as well. If you or a loved one suffered serious long-term health effects from injuries sustained while playing a sport, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation.