Thousands of personal injury lawsuits filed by former professional football players and their families against the National Football League have been consolidated in a Philadelphia federal court. The lawsuits accuse the league of knowingly exposing the players to serious brain injuries caused by repeated blows to the head.
A similar lawsuit was recently filed against the National Hockey league by the family of a deceased player who had a career riddled with fights and concussions, suggesting that the NHL could be facing similar accusations are the NFL. The lawsuit was filed by the family of Derek Boogaard who served as an enforcer in the NHL for six seasons.
The lawsuit alleges that the NHL is responsible for the brain damage that Boogaard suffered as well as his addiction to painkillers, which persisted during his final two years of life. Boogaard was found dead at his Minneapolis condo on May 13, 2011. An autopsy revealed that the 28-year-old suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease that has been linked to repetitive concussions in athletes and war veterans.
A lawyer for Boogaard’s family said that the NHL subjected the young man to trauma caused by repetitive fighting and then fed him pain mediation to cope with the aftermath. He also said the NHL promised to treat Boogaard for his prescription drug addiction but failed.
Boogaard’s family say they believe the player suffered dozens of concussions while playing for the NHL. He sustained his last concussion on Dec. 9, 2010, in an on-ice fight while playing for the Rangers in Ottawa. The following spring, Boogaard was sent to drug rehab for the second time for an addiction to pain medication. He was granted two extended, unsupervised recesses during his treatment and was found dead on the first night of his second leave.
The lawsuit states that Boogaard “was provided copious amounts of prescription pain medications, sleeping pills, and painkiller injections by N.H.L. teams’ physicians, dentists, trainers and staff” to help deal with the physical pain associated with being an NHL enforcer.
The lawsuit states that the NHL “breached its duty” to monitor Boogaard’s prescriptions and never disciplined or suspended the player, as the rules dictate, after he failed drug tests and admitted to buying painkillers illegally.
Source: The New York Times, “In Suit Over Death, Boogaard’s Family Blames the N.H.L.,” John Branch, May 12, 2013