Sports
2:10 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

Former Wolverine sues NFL, others over head injuries

A former National Football League player from Michigan filed a lawsuit yesterday against the league and four others for failing to warn him of football-related head injuries, reports the Associated Press.

Derrick Walker lives in West Bloomfield, and he began his football career playing for the University of Michigan Wolverines where he served as co-captain in the '80s.  Since then, the plaintiff went on to play tight end professionally for the San Diego Chargers, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders. 

Over that time period, Walker's lawsuit says he was concussed multiple times which led to memory loss, difficulty concentrating, headaches and difficulty sleeping.  Now he's seeking at least $500,000 in damages, reports the Detroit Free Press.

More from the Freep:

Despite the seriousness of his head injury status, the lawsuit claims, Walker was cleared by team staff on various occasions and was directed to return to the field, “even though he was clearly medically ineligible,” exposing him to further serious injuries. ..

“The NFL knew as early as the 1920s of the potential harmful effects on players who suffer concussions,” the lawsuit states. “However, until June of 2010, they concealed these facts from coaches, trainers, players, and the public … for decades, defendants have known that multiple blows to the head can lead to long-term brain injury.”

The 79-page lawsuit also names four other defendants, including Illinois-based Riddell Sports Group, the official helmet maker for the NFL.

Growing national attention concerning football-related head injuries prompted the National Collegiate Athletic Association to conduct a study on the issue. As a result of those findings, the NCAA Football Rules Committee amended college football rules last February in order to better protect players.

These new rules, which will go into effect this coming fall, include moving kick offs to the 35 instead of the 30-year line, and makes it illegal for players on the kicking team to line up for the play behind the 30-yard line in order to decrease player momentum. Furthermore, the NCAA website says touchbacks will be moved to the 25-yard line instead of the 20 to discourage kickoff returns (a time when players are vulnerable to concussions). And if a player loses his helmet during the game, he must sit out the next play.

The NFL has made similar rule changes in an effort to cut down on the number of player concussions.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom