NFL Damage Control on Concussions

May 4, 2011

Well, the floodgates are opening wider and wider. Sports Legacy Institute and Boston University held a press conference this past Monday to announce their findings on the late Dave Duerson’s brain examination. To no one’s surprise, they discovered the presence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in his brain.

Former NFL player Dave Duerson found to have had brain damage

A postmortem examination has found evidence that Duerson suffered from a neurodegenerative disease linked to concussions and other repetitive head trauma, researchers said Monday.
“The pathology was severe in areas of the brain that influence impulse control, inhibition, emotion and memory,” said Dr. Ann McKee, a neurologist at Boston University and the Bedford VA Medical Center.
McKee and her colleagues have examined 15 former players and discovered signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in 14 of them. These findings have reinforced growing concerns about long-term football injuries.
You can read the rest of David Wharton‘s piece in the LA Times by clicking HERE.
For better or for worse, Duerson’s tragic suicide has opened the floodgates to the next level of debate on employees’ rights, fiduciary responsibility and the benefits that go along with all of that.
Then there’s the latest piece from the New York Times’ Alan Schwarz on the ripple effect and coming damage control from Duerson’s death (our highlights in RED):


Duerson’s Case Highlights the Limits of the N.F.L.’s Disability Plan

“Until December 2009, the N.F.L.’s official position on players’ cognitive decline and dementia also was that no scientific link with football had been established. And even after the league acknowledged the relationship, one of its outside lawyers in disability matters, Larry Lamade, wrote in a memo to Ell last year that while orthopedic impairments can be ascribed to football activities,“This is not the state of scientific and medical research at the present time regarding concussions and neurologic impairments.”
“Douglas Ell, the plan’s lead lawyer, said in an e-mail Tuesday that votes were typically unanimous, meaning Duerson’s was not a crucial vote.To the extent that a 4-to-2 vote for denial or a 3-to-3 tie could be grounds to examine Duerson’s decision, Ell said that he knew of no case where “if Dave’s vote were disregarded, the outcome would have been different.
Ell also said,“Despite whatever impairments Dave may have experienced at different times, he still demonstrated mental sharpness far in excess of the average person.”
“John Hogan, a lawyer for dozens of players in disability matters, said that he might request an audit by the United States Department of Labor to see how Duerson voted on claims.”
“The executive director of the N.F.L. Players Association, DeMaurice Smith, said in a telephone interview Monday that he would not comment on those discussions, given current litigation to resolve the league’s lockout of players.”
Read the rest of Alan Schwarz’ article in the New York Times by clicking HERE.
So let’s see: Larry Lamade is still putting out memos from the long-departed Ira ‘Dr. No’ Casson: “Concussions don’t cause brain damage.” And Doug Ell is basically saying that Dave Duerson seemed well enough to him that his actions – and votes – were acceptable to him in spite of a pattern of some very public events that sent up red flags everywhere else: failing businesses, domestic violence, resignation from the Board of Trustees of Notre Dame, divorce. And yet, the NFLPA (AND the NFL) still felt he was able to vote on the fate of his fellow retired players’ disability cases. Oh but wait – Ell also says his vote 1) didn’t really matter and 2) the Board always seems to manage a unanimous vote anyway. What?!! An “independent” Board that’s not supposed to be affected by any outside influence votes as one? And no one is allowed to see how they voted? What does it say about the Plan’s integrity, when most votes are recorded as unanimous – EACH of the six members of any Retirement Board is required to exericise INDEPENDENT judgment, skill and care. Small wonder Tom Condon quit last year when the heat started to get turned up and his BFF Gene Upshaw left the building…
We agree with attorney John Hogan in his call for a full audit by the Dept. of Labor. Not only on the 6 years that Dave Duerson sat on the Board but for the 25+ years past to see if this has been a consistent pattern of doing “business-as-usual.” If there has been a long-term pattern of illegal actions and motives, are there potential criminal charges and against who? And would any statute of limitations be thrown out the window so that all past cases could – and should – be re-opened and reviewed with proper oversight? And why is it that the lawyers never seem to be held accountable for the damage that they do?
The plot thickens and the floodgates are opening faster and faster.

4 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Dirk Knudsen
    May 5th, 2011 at 8:39 am #

    Dirk Knudsen

    Starts to look like Racketeering when you think of how long they have known and how long they have done nothing.

    It is worth noting that if the States of Oregon and Washington had not passed concussion reform and mandatory education, the NFL would not have led on this issue. The fact is that the NCAA, NAIA and the NFL had no serious policies in place prior to that.

    It is what it is. They are an employer who knowingly sat by and watched and encouraged players to play hurt. Period. They are going to do anything they can to soft peddle the issue as if they are just finding this all out. The Multi-Billion dollar industry has no regulation. God forbid that any Senator or Government official would not be able to watch their favorite team play on Sundays.

    They can fix this. They need to be held accountable to the same standards as any small business. Maybe the Environmental Protection Agency should regulate the NFL because they sure in the hell regulate everyone else and they’re damn good at it!

    Duerson’s death was tragic and was caused by a debilitating condition he received in pursuit of his job for his employer. There is no other way to couch that. Dave, thanks for the memories because when you played, you shined, man!

    Here is to the NFL growing up or getting out. If they have to lose money as a business, so be it. Employees come first in most businesses and that has to be the mantra here.

    Thanks, Mr. Pear, for your diligence and dogged work on this.

    We are busy trying to fix the youth football problems.

    Best wishes,
    Dirk Knudsen

  2. Dave Pear
    May 5th, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    A United States Department of Labor audit of the disability plan would certainly expose the ERISA violations and HIPAA noncompliances and the serious breach of fiduciary duty of the NFL, NFLPA and Bell/Rozelle Retirement Board (league) towards disabled retired players. Why is it that everyone else EXCEPT the NFL and the NFLPA can see this is fraud!

    So now NFL lawyers Larry Lamade and Doug Ell are trotted out to scheme the coverup to “justify” these dirty deeds.

    And of course, once again NFLPA Executive Director De Smith responds with, “No comment.”

    Justice NOW for retired NFL players (especially the pre-93 players) should be a part of ALL negotiations going on today.

    Dave & Heidi Pear

  3. George Visger
    May 5th, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    George Visger

    I suggest all read Dr. Amen’s recently published report (below) which states unequivocally, “Football at all levels causes brain damage.”

    Impact of Playing American Professional Football on Long-Term Brain Function
    Click HERE to download the report in PDF format.
    Daniel G. Amen,
    M.D. Andrew Newberg,
    M.D. Robert Thatcher, Ph.D.
    Yi Jin, M.D.
    Joseph Wu, M.D.
    David Keator, M.C.S.
    Kristen Willeumier, Ph.D.

    George Visger
    San Francisco 49ers 1980 – 1981
    Survivor of 9 NFL Caused Emergency VP Shunt Brain Surgeries
    Benefactor of ZERO NFL Benefits

  4. Freddie Joe Nunn
    January 13th, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    Freddie Joe Nunn

    After playing for 12 years, it’s easy to talk about the fun stuff. But when it comes down to it, no one really knows what going on inside our hearts. Families stick beside us but do they really listen? I mean come on – we’re supposed to be big men. We should not have problems or hurt.

    We are human.

    Freddie Joe Nunn
    St. Louis Cardinals, Phoenix Cardinals,
    Indianapolis Colts
    1985 – 1996