The History of College Football and the Hidden Concussions

For years, individuals have flocked to sporting events to see individuals compete on the gridiron. In many situations, playing football has been a way of life for kids and young adults, and college football was a way for many to earn a scholarship.

However, while there have been a number benefits for individuals, there have also been a number of potential dangers for those who strap on a helmet. Unfortunately, not everyone hears about those dangers because they have been hidden.

What does this mean for past, present, and future players? Well, the more and more the dangers are brought to light, the more they athletes are able to better understand what options they have regarding playing and injuries they may sustain.

Before moving forward, though, it’s important for individuals to understand the history of the NCAA, what has been done to try and protect football players, how these protections fail, and what may happen should someone suffer a serious injury.

Why the National Collegiate Athletic Association Exists

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was founded in 1906 with the purpose of protecting those student-athletes—especially in regards to college football—and making the sport safer. This was one year following the death of 18 players in college football.

Despite their initial intention of stopping these dangers, there hasn’t been much done to ensure safer measures regarding serious concussions. There have been new helmets created with new technology, but as we have seen, people are still suffering concussions as a result of hard hits to the head.

This is something that has gone on for over 100 years, yet nothing has changed. There are still clear and present dangers that exist and, although they may not feel the full effects during their playing years, many players are dealing with the consequences of a concussion years after they’ve stopped playing.

Past Lawsuits Against College Football

As more and more individuals began to realize the impact of the injuries they suffered playing college football, many started to come forward to take legal action. Some of these cases are being used to test the viability of remaining and future cases against the NCAA.

The cases being tested include:

  • Zack Langston was a linebacker for Pittsburg State University between 2007 and 2010. During his time playing college football, he suffered “many concussions.” He committed suicide in 2014 and was posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or better known as CTE.
  • Eric Weston suffered numerous head hits during his time playing at Weber State University. So much so, he often forgot games completely. Now, he deals with severe anxiety, depression, memory loss, and more.
  • Jamie Richardson was often on the receiving end of numerous concussive and sub-concussive hits. To this day, he still endures memory loss, headaches, dizziness, and other head-related problems.
  • Michael Rose and Timothy Stratton were both at Purdue University in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and they both dealt with multiple concussions. Despite being injuries sustained over a decade ago, they still deal with the issues of head injuries.

College Football Concussions By the Numbers

Did you know, that between the 2013 and 2015 NCAA football seasons, the 120+ Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools reported an average of four concussions each? This is just under one per season on public record.

This means that in three years, college football saw at least 501 concussions in major college football. This doesn’t count the teams in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) or the concussions that made it through protocol and went unreported.

As a result, one noted concussion expert found CTE in 41 of the 50 former college football plyers that she examined in 2015. At the time, there was at least 27 players from major college football who retired from the game because of concussions they suffered.

Some even believe that for every diagnosed and reported concussion, there are notable other head hits and suspected concussions that occur and go unreported. Between 2013 and 2015, at least 60 football programs didn’t publicly report a concussion.

What Is CTE and How Does It Affect an Athlete?

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is considered a neurodegenerative disease that causes major damage to the player with numerous symptoms including memory loss, behavioral issues, dementia, depression, and more as it progresses.

There have been a number of former college football players who committed suicide and were later diagnosed with CTE, increasing the connection between the escalated feelings of depression and the brain injury.

These players include:

  • Terry Luther Long: He was the first player with CTE to commit suicide in 2005. His autopsy led to the discovery of CTE.
  • Andre Waters: It was determined after he died that the 44-year-old had a brain that resembled a 90-year-old with Alzheimer’s.
  • Shane Dronett: In the year’s following his release from the NFL, Dronett and demonstrated paranoia, rage, and fear. His CTE was confirmed following his death.
  • Junior Seau: The former USC Trojan was found with a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest after a long career in football and a number of injuries.
  • David Duerson: Prior to committing suicide, Duerson had texted family stating that he wanted his brain donated to help aid in CTE research.

In the most recent situation, a Washington State quarterback committed suicide at the young age of 21. It was revealed that he had extensive damage to his brain. After the autopsy, it was determined that the young man had the brain of a 65-year-old and there were signs of CTE.

What Needs to Be Done?

Over the years, there have been advances in technology, equipment, and rules that are designed to protect football players, but still, there’s not enough to prevent significant head injuries from occurring. Even worse, there’s not enough to force colleges to report the injuries.

This needs to be a standard so the first concussion is detected properly and there is a way to protect the player from suffering further damage. Without this, the injuries will continue, the colleges will continue to hide them, and the players will continue to suffer.

When a college football program has insufficient return to play policies, fails to offer proper safety equipment, or refuses to warn athletes of the long-term risks and symptoms of a concussion, they are putting the athlete at serious risk of lifelong effects caused by the traumatic brain injury.

When this happens, and players are left to deal with the consequences, these programs and the NCAA as a whole should be held accountable for the losses the player may experience—or in some cases, the family of the player should it lead to significant CTE or death.

At Shrader & Associates L.L.P., we stand at the forefront of the concussion lawsuits against the NCAA. We understand that former athletes are left suffering from concussions or concussion like symptoms, and when they do, help is needed to pursue legal action.

Our sports injury lawyers work hard and go the extra mile when you need us the most. These are some of the most serious situations someone can experience, and having options moving forward is important. We’re here to help see this through.

If you or a loved one is a former NCAA college football player or athlete and have suffered a concussion, contact our firm today at (877) 958-7920 for a free consultation. We want to not only seek the compensation and justice you deserve, but make the game safer for all athletes now and in the future.

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