Hockey Players Sue NHL for Concussion Claims

by John McKiggan

It’s the time of year that hockey is on the minds of many Canadians as we gear up for a Christmas tradition, watching the World Juniour Hockey tournament in Sweden.

Concussion Class Action

But in the United States, hockey is in the news for a different reason. Ten former National Hockey League players have filed a class action against the NHL claiming the league concealed evidence of the risks posed by repeated concussions and failed to protect players from head injuries by failing to implement rules that would protect players from head shots and other high risk behaviour.

Over the past couple of years I have seen an increased interest in sports concussions. I have tried to help raise awareness of the issue in some of the articles I have published on the blog about the dangers of concussion and mild traumatic brain injury. See for example:

Mooseheads player fights back after concussion

Using Their Heads: New Study of Athletes and Concussions

Football Concussion Class Action

Last year former professional football players sued the NFL for brain injuries they claim to have received as a result of the NFL covering up their knowledge of the long term dangers of concussion. That claim was recently settled in the United States with the NFL agreeing to pay 765 Million Dollars.

College Athletes File Concussion Lawsuit

College athletes in the States have also filed similar a class action against the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Hockey Class Action

The proposed NHL class action is still in the early stages. The lawsuit is looking for compensatory as well as punitive damages as well as funding for ongoing medical monitoring of players who retired on or before February 14, 2013.

The class action only benefits players who are still alive. However this year the parents of former NHL tough guy Derek Boogaard filed a lawsuit against the NHL. An autopsy after Boogaard’s death indicated that he was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy a degenerative brain condition caused by repeated trauma to the brain. Boogaard’s parents claim that repeated concussions suffered during his six seasons in the NHL caused the CTE. That lawsuit is still awaiting a trial date.

No Canadian Lawsuits…

There has been speculation over whether the Canadian Football League would face a similar lawsuit. CFL Hall of famer Matt Dunigan has agreed to donate his brain and spinal cord to be studied after his death by researchers with the Canadian Sports Concussion Project.

While there have been some statements by former CFL players, as of yet there have been no class actions filed on behalf of the players here in Canada.

However, in an article written for Lawyers Weekly Magazine Sudden Impact: Liability for Sports Related Concussions I suggested that the potential liability for sports organizations here in Canada is a real and significant risk and one that professional and amateur sports organizations need to pay close attention to.

I will be watching the NHL class action with a great deal of interest.

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