Concussion lawsuits behind NFL brain injury efforts? League spokesperson says ‘No’

David Yates Nov. 29, 2014, 6:00pm

In its latest proactive health effort, the NFL recently teamed up with Washington and the military in hopes of combating traumatic brain injury – one of many moves that has left some fans wondering if concussion lawsuits are spurring the league into action.

However, an NFL spokesperson says the thousands of concussion lawsuits filed by former players “hasn’t had any effect” on the way the league works to ensure player safety.

During a Sept. 14 interview, Brian McCarthy, vice president of corporate communications at the NFL, told the Southeast Texas Record that “regardless of the lawsuits,” the NFL has always sought to improve player health and safety.

“There have been a number of programs throughout NFL history focused on player health and safety,” McCarthy said, adding that the NFL continuously evolves its efforts, such as equipment upgrades and rule changes.

Regardless of official stance, no argument can be made denying that NFL hasn’t been focused on brain injury as of late.

According to a Sept. 12 press release, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff General Lloyd Austin, III and Reps. Mike Thompson and Gus Bilirakis (co-chairs of the Congressional Military Veterans Caucus) joined forces at a meeting hosted on Capitol Hill to discuss a collaborative, public-private effort to combat traumatic brain injury.

Goodell and General Austin addressed 24 members of Congress and outlined the program designed to share information, increase awareness and education, and enhance the discussion about head injuries.

"We appreciate the leadership of Reps. Thompson and Bilirakis and the participation of General Austin and two dozen members of Congress,” said Goodell. “Working together we can lead in raising awareness on this issue that affects players in all sports, our men and women in the armed forces, and the broader public."

The meeting comes only seven days after the NFL announced the granting of $30 million to the National Institutes of Health to go towards the study of neurological diseases.

The unrestricted gift is the NFL’s single-largest donation to any organization in the league’s 92-year history, making the NFL the founding donor to a new sports and health research program, a Sept. 5 press release states.

Though donations and meetings with politicians aren’t the only steps the NFL has taken to improve player safety.

Last November, the NFL made it policy to have an observer present at every game, tasking health and safety experts with the responsibility of alerting team medical staffs of possible undetected injuries.

Between 2000 and 2012 more than 244,000 service members have been diagnosed with TBI. Outside of the military, nearly 2 million people across our country suffer a TBI each year, including NFL players and athletes of all ages in all sports, the Sept. 12 press release states.

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