Former NHLers suing league for head injuries

Wind-Up Wednesday


Three months after the NFL paid out $765 million to thousands of former football players for their development of concussion-related issues, 10 former NHL players are following the way of their pig-skin throwing brethren by filing a class-action lawsuit of their own this week.

Claiming the NHL didn't do enough to protect its players from head injuries until 2010, the 10 players are seeking damages and medical monitoring for their brain trauma/injuries they say they developed from playing in the NHL.

The lawsuit says, "The NHL's active and purposeful concealment of the severe risks of brain injuries exposed players to unnecessary dangers they could have avoided had the NHL provided them with truthful and accurate information and taken appropriate action to prevent needless harm."

In addition, the lawsuit claims that the NHL continues to contribute to head injuries by refusing to ban fighting and body checking, while keeping players "in the dark about the risks of concussions."

While the debate of head injuries and banning fighting from the NHL isn't a new one, one can't help but wonder whether or not these 10 players would be filing a lawsuit against the NHL if NFL players weren't successful with theirs.

Are they just after money on a personal level or are they truly trying to change the NHL for the better when it comes to concussion prevention?

"Surely a lawsuit from guys with 10-20 career NHL games can't be about money," joked Vancouver sports reporter Greg Balloch on Twitter.

But if it is money they're after, they certainly can't be expecting anything along the lines of what the NFL could afford to give its former players, even for just 10 players seeking damages.

In 2012, the NFL was the most profitable league in North America at $11 billion, while the NHL was a mere $3.3 billion in comparison.

Aside from greed, another concern might be the snowball effect that the NFL concussion lawsuit might be having on other sports leagues.

If the NHL is the next league to go to court over head injuries, who's next? Especially if the league loses this lawsuit, too.

Maybe former CFL players? AHL players? Rugby Canada?

There are definitely other leagues that see a number of concussions, perhaps more than NHL players, so will players take them to court, too?

And, if so, what will the overall repercussions on professional sports be if these lawsuits start coming out of the woodwork and draining leagues with payouts and legal fees? Maybe anything that might possibly lead to a concussion or injury will be removed from each sport, kind of like how that school on the Lower Mainland banned tag and other 'contact' games from their playground to make things safer.

Could you imagine how exciting non-contact pro football or hockey would be? Riveting.

As of Monday night, the NHL hadn't commented on this lawsuit coming their way, but as AP reporter Frederic J. Frommer points out, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this year,

"We have, on our own, a long history, going back to 1997, of taking concussions very seriously. We spend a lot of time, money and effort working with the players' association on player safety."

The NHL banned head shots back in 2010, but this year a study came out that suggested the NHL's rule to outlaw checks to the head hasn't lowered concussion rates in the three years it's been in effect.

The study also says that the rule's wording is too subjective and something that officials can read in various ways, which also means they may or may not enforce the rule based on how they read it individually.

So maybe it's not necessarily the NHL that should be at fault for all the players' concussions - maybe it's their Officials Association - the guys who enforce the rules and have the power to make a difference when hits to the head (or other dangerous, reckless plays) happen.

There's also the players themselves who should have some accountability in all of this. After all, they're the ones who choose to fight or play dangerously or turn away when about to be checked. It's a contact sport to boot, and you join it knowing this. And now 10 players want to sue for bad decisions they might have made years ago?

Really, it's all getting pretty confusing not to mention messy, which is funny, because isn't the point of all this drama to clean up the NHL?

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