As certainly anyone in Texas knows, high school and college football are both in full swing with crowds filling stadiums across the state every Friday night and Saturday. And this week, players with the National Football League take to the field for the start of their regular season. Depending on their particular allegiance, fans are wondering if the Dallas Cowboys can find a way to make it to the playoffs this year under the leadership of Tony Romo, and the Houston Texans supporters are just hoping for some improvement on the dismal league-worst two and fourteen record of last season.
At all levels of the sport, more attention is being paid to the potential injuries these players can experience and the long-term impact repeated hits can have on their physical and psychological well-being. Earlier this summer, a federal judge gave her preliminary approval to a deal that will offer payments to thousands of NFL players who now or may one day suffer from a variety of neurological issues in a structured decision that specifically addresses diagnoses such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, dementia and other neurological issues (“Federal judge approves NFL concussion settlement,” Associated Press, July 7, 2014).
The potential tragedy of brain injuries caused by football was brought into focus by the 2012 death of pro bowler Junior Seau, who committed suicide after years of struggling with the fallout of his many seasons of hard tackles. Seau was found after his death to have been struggling with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease. His family has opted out of the collective settlement deal put forth by the NFL and instead have decided to continue with their own wrongful death claim, stating that the league is simply trying to make the problem go away and it still needs to be further responsible for, they assert, knowingly withholding evidence about the dangerous consequences of repeated concussions (“Seau to opt out of concussion deal,” ESPN.com, September 3, 2014).
“The media attention that football injuries have received in recent years should be viewed as a positive, even though the lifelong impact felt by many of these players is a physical and emotional burden that no one should have to bear,” offered local attorney Tony R. Bertolino, managing attorney of Bertolino LLP. “I have children. So do many of the other lawyers here at our firm. We understand what so many other parents around our state are facing when deciding whether to let kids be involved in certain extracurricular activities. We need to have all of the information possible. And sometimes, in the interest of participation or finances or reputation, details are not disclosed. When such an omission happens, there must be consequences.”