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Trickle Down, Are Concussion Lawsuits the Death of Football?

The NFL is in the process of settling a myriad of lawsuits with players and family members to the tune of $765M. This settlement also includes set aside funding for research. The lawsuit was filed by players against the National Football League (NFL) for allegedly concealing knowledge of long-term dangers of concussions and the failure to properly care for head injuries. ( NFL to spend $765M to settle concussion lawsuits, AP, August 29, 2013)

At the same time the NFL settlement was making the front page, three former college players filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, alleging that it had failed not only to educate college players about the risk of concussions but failed to prevent, diagnose and treat brain injuries. (Former Football Players Sue NCAA Over Concussions, AP, September 4, 2013)

According to ESPN’ s Jeff Easterbrook, if youth leagues, public school districts and colleges that are already in the red on sports start paying brain-damage awards, they’ll stop sponsoring football. They won’t have any choice — insurers will drop them. This, not the NFL’s litigation maneuvering, it is the nuclear bomb, ticking in football. With the spotlight on concussions and football injuries, it’s starting to look like the “legal quicksand” that has its grips on football is not going away. (ESPN, Litigation threatens football’s future, September 3, 2013)

“Athletics involve physical activity and whether it is football or hockey, cheerleading or golf, participants can get injured and the prospect of injury is always a possibility. Its unlikely parents let their children get involved in sports, at any age, without knowing the physical demands and risks,” says Frank N. Darras, disability lawyer to professional athletes. “The extent of those risks should be up for discussion. Steps can be taken to protect the family, the finances and the futures of those who are playing sports. Whether it’s a 10-year old boy in the local league or the Heisman Trophy winner waiting for the draft, each has options to protect themselves and the sport they love and in which they compete.”

Darras advises athletic associations across the country that the way the leagues are getting hammered by lawsuits is a signal to everyone to get smart about sports and disability. This requires leagues, coaches, players and parents to take the responsibility to not only make sports safer, but also to take steps to protect themselves in the event of a catastrophic injury or devastating illness.

“I advise starting educational programs that cover the risk of participation in sports and recognize that in taking personal risk, there is responsibility for the participants, not just leagues and school systems. Having as many i’s dotted and t’s crossed when it comes to today and the future. This is done by exploring individual disability insurance policies to cover high draft-eligible college athletes should the worst happen. When an athlete purchases a rock-solid disability policy for himself, it also provides protection for the sports and traditions America has grown to love. If lawsuits threaten to kill off football, or make it a soft game, there will be no audience; if that were to happen, what sport is next?” says Darras.

USC wide receiver Marqise Lee and other college players are approaching their futures the smart way. Lee recently purchased a $10M total disability policy. These players depend on their physical talent for a living and recognize how a disability can affect their future. They have stepped forward to get the right protection, whether a disability knocks them out from playing entirely, or knocks them down in the draft. “All players should take a page out of that playbook,” says Darras. ( Marqise Lee insured for $10M, ESPN.com, August 30, 2013)

“As founder of America’s largest disability firm, I have seen over 25 years, career-ending injuries and illnesses affect athletes. There is nothing sadder than when a 350 pound truly-disabled linebacker is sitting across from me with tears in his eyes because he cannot pay the bills and he can’t work because of the long-term effects of an injury he sustained playing,” says Darras.

An individual disability policy can prevent this heartbreak.

“My best advice across all leagues, professional and youth, is get great, competent advice from a trusted lawyer who can explain disability insurance, its value and clear up any ambiguities so athletes can get the right protection for their futures. Get smart, get great disability insurance and protect your future,” says Darras.

DarrasLaw is Americas' most honored and decorated disability litigation firm in the country. Mr. Darras has seen more, evaluated more, litigated more, and resolved more individual and group long term disability and long-term care cases than any other lawyer in the United States.

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