Brain Injury & Concussions, Brain Injury and Sports, Brain Injury Events, Brain Injury Lawyers and Law, Brain Injury Legislative News
Lead Off Speaker at American Association for Justice-Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group
On Sunday, July 27th, I will be the lead off speakier at the annual conference of the American Association for Justice, Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group’s annual program to be held this year in Baltimore, Maryland.
My topic this year is entitled, From Concussion to the Classroom and Playing Field. I will explore the many legal issues in recently enacted concussion management legislation, public health issues and additional steps that must be taken to protect our nation’s youth from the epidemic of traumatic brain injury in all sports.
Recent evidence points to over 250 million of our nation’s youth sustain some type of a traumatic brain injury each year while participating in athletic competition all athletic training. Brain injury in sports is a public health crisis that must be approached from many different areas including education, prevention, return to play guidelines and legal liability when a preventable brain injury takes place.
The legal conference is a part of the four day conference sponsored each year by the nation’s largest trial lawyer association, the American Association for Justice. The conference each year is attended by over 2,000 attorneys from across the nation. The conference provides educational skills to attorneys on how to more effectively represent their clients following a personal injury.
The traumatic brain injury litigation group is comprised of attorneys who have a special interest in the area of traumatic brain injury litigation. I have been honored to have been a chair of this group and continue to serve on the group’s executive board.
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Save VA Benefits for Brain Injured Veterans
The Brain Injury Association of America has just issued the following Action Alert:
Protect Access to Care for Veterans
Call Congress Today!
As a member of the large and growing community that understands the importance of thoughtful, comprehensive care for individuals living with brain injury, we wanted to inform you of an important program for America's veterans that is in danger of shutting down if Congress does not act soon.
Established by Congress in 2008, the Assisted Living TBI Pilot Program has made it possible for hundreds of wounded warriors to receive specialized, post-acute brain injury rehabilitation in the community.The program provides critical, real-life skills to help veterans return to their homes and communities. It has been a lifeline for dozens and dozens of veterans.
Unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that it will end the pilot program on September 30, 2014 unless Congress takes action to extend it. This means that the VA will soon begin to discharge veterans from the program.The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted the importance of the program and the challenges faced by many if Congress doesn't act soon.
We need your help to make sure the Assisted Living Pilot Program for Veterans with TBI continues to make a meaningful difference for America's heroes.
Please call your Member of Congress and make sure they know how important the program is to veterans and urge them to support extending the pilot program. You can reach your Representatives and Senators by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 where you will be transferred directly to their offices. Thank you for your crucial contribution to this effort.
Brain Injury and Sports, Brain Injury Lawyers and Law
Congressional Brain Injury Task Force Urges FIFA To Take a Hard Look at its Concussion Management Protocol
In a letter to FIFA, the co-chairs of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, urged that the world soccer organization take immediate steps to address their “inadequate approach toward traumatic brain injury.”
Here are some excerpts from the congressional correspondence raising questions about FIFA’s concussion management protocol:
“This threat was on full display during the World Cup, where several players were left in obvious pain after receiving blows to the head. Of note, Álvaro Pereira, Javier Mascherano, and Christoph Kramer all endured brutal head injuries during play. Unfortunately, their pain wasn’t the only thing that these players had in common: each of them returned to the field almost immediately after a brief, sideline evaluation by a team doctor. In the case of Mr. Pereira, the team doctor even signaled to the manager that a substitution was necessary; however, the player insisted that he continue and he was reintroduced to the game. While Messrs. Periera and Mascherano continued to play for the remainder of their matches, Mr. Kramer collapsed on the field after fifteen minutes and was finally substituted out. He stated the next morning that he had little memory of the game.”
" Unlike in many other professional sports, following a player injury, the decisions of team doctors, who are rarely neurologists, can be overruled by coaches or the players themselves. This flies in the face of everything we know about TBIs, inadequate diagnosis and treatment, and the severity of this condition. Even after his team’s doctor advised him to leave the field, Mr. Pereira refused. This strategy is not sufficient in adequately diagnosing and treating players who have sustained head injuries. In the National Football League, for example, an independent doctor, unaffiliated with the team, must be present to evaluate all potential head injuries and make final decisions about whether it is safe for a player to return to the field."
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Even Phineas Gage would be denied benefits under the NFL class action settlement if received his injury while playing football!
Illustrative of the inadequacy of the NFL class action settlement are the injuries sustained by Phineas Gage and how he would fair under this agreement.
Perhaps the most famous traumatic brain injury patient in the history of medicine was Phineas Gage. In 1848, Gage was a 25-year-old railway construction foreman, working with explosive powder and a packing rod. A spark caused an explosion that propelled the three-foot long pointed rod through his head. It penetrated his skull at the top, passed through his brain, and exited through his temple. Before the accident Gage was a quiet, mild-mannered man; after his injuries he became an obscene, obstinate, self-absorbed man. His personality and behavioral problems persisted until his death in 1861.
Had Phineas Gage sustained these injuries while playing professional football, he would not be entitled to any benefit under the proposed settlement agreement.
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NFL settlement fails to provide redress for majority of players
It is unfortunate that the U.S. District Court Brody granted preliminary approval to the proposed settlement of the NFL class action lawsuit without first holding a hearing to examine significant issues affecting the ability of players to obtain the compensation they deserve.
I am hopeful that hearing scheduled for November 19th, will explore the obstacles, roadblocks, and hurdles that players in all classes of injury must overcome before receiving compensation under this settlement proposal. The majority of players suffering with brain injuries are not embraced within the settlement and will receive no compensation.
The revised settlement is flawed in many respects. The proposal neither recognizes nor compensates the majority of players who suffer the long-term consequences of brain trauma, but merely carves out certain, small and discrete groups. The majority of players who have physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral impairments will remain uncompensated under this settlement.
Though this settlement proposal purports to generously provide financial stability for the futures of thousands of players who suffer from traumatic brain injury and its consequences, closer scrutiny reveals something entirely different. An examination of the terms and conditions of the settlement reveals a design to systematically exclude players from participation and reduce payments to the small group who meet the arbitrary criteria. It imposes unfair and illogical restrictions on the categories of compensable injuries and requires players to have participated in NFL play for excessively long periods, implicitly denying that a player can sustain a life-altering concussion after only a short NFL career. The plan is replete with complex, arbitrary, and overlapping omissions in its unwieldy and overly intricate criteria, which are then further reduced by offset for liens.
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Hearing needed before NFL revised settlement agreement is considered by Federal Court
The revised NFL brain injuy settlement agreement is fatally flawed. Judge Brody should hold a hearing before she even considers granting preliminary approval to the settlement.
Here are some preliminary observations that were published yesterday by my partner, Shana De Caro and myself on the Huffington Post:
The revised proposed settlement of the class action lawsuit against the NFL remains fundamentally flawed. The settlement neither recognizes nor compensates the majority of players who suffer the long-term consequences of repeated concussive injury.
The foundation of the lawsuit was the deliberate and longstanding misrepresentations by the NFL and its committee on traumatic brain injury, concerning the known health risks that players confronted from repetitive brain trauma so ingrained in the game. For years, the NFL has staunchly refused to acknowledge the accumulating body of objective medical evidence revealing the risk of permanent brain damage from repeated head trauma. The NFL remained shrouded by inaccurate statements propagated by its own Committee on Mild Head Injury, including false declarations that "mild TBIs in football are not serious injuries" and that "many NFL players can be safely allowed to return to play on the day of the injury after sustaining a mild TBI." This deception imperiled professional football players and was calculated to mislead players and the public.
Today's proposed revised settlement persists in disregarding the issues that are essential to the vast majority of players that are affected. A concussion is a brain injury. A mild brain injury is only mild if it is someone else's brain. The silent majority of players who have cognitive, emotional, and behavioral impairments because of their reliance on the fraudulent conduct by the NFL will remain uncompensated under this settlement.
The court has an obligation to protect all players who are part of this class action lawsuit. Any settlement that fails to address the claims and interests of the majority of players should be rejected as imprudent and contrary to the best interests of the majority of class members.
The claims of the preponderance of players must be allowed to continue in order to expose the reprehensible pattern of deception and intentional misconduct committed by the league, whose control of the negotiations of this settlement, elevates profits over player safety.
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Sports Concussion Summit-Listen this Sunday when I share my thoughts with Bob Salter on WFAN
Last Thursday, I joined President Obama at the White House for his Summit on Youth Sports Concussions. I will be discussing my thoughts about the new sports concussion initiatives and the need for comprehensive federal legislation this Sunday morning at 7 AM with Bob Salter on WFAN Radio 66 AM, 101.9 FM You can listen to a live stream of my interview on Sunday by clicking here.
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The White House Concussion Summit-No Quick Fixes Please
I had the honor and privilege to be a participant in yesterday’s White House Sports Concussion Summit.
President Obama’s inaugural concussion summit presented a watershed moment in validating and tackling the public health crisis of the long term hazards posed by concussions in sports and its ramifications. The President’s opening remarks were very encouraging and he deserves credit for bringing everyone together around this issue. Unfortunately, the momentum was lost when the panelists shifted the focus to protection of sporting activities from the negative publicity associated with brain injury rather than protection of players.
The White House Summit on sports was an opportunity to embrace a uniform national protocol comprehensively tackling the multi-dimensional issues related to sports concussion management. It is critical to avoid preventable brain injuries and manage the brain injuries that unfortunately but inevitably occur. Though many coaches and parents fear the over-protective label, they have justification for their safety concerns.
Contrary to the perspective of the panel, brain injury is not a simple event with a simple solution. One only need listen to the many young adults who suffer permanent disability in the pursuit of athletic participation. No one is suggesting a ban on athletic activities. Yes, concussions happen. It is part of the game, but we must implement initiatives to reduce the risk of injury, and prevent, preventable injuries.
This national summit on the public health crisis of sports related brain injury missed an important opportunity to set forth a meaningful agenda and address the needs of the millions of individuals who have sustained a brain injury both on and off the playing field.
Increased government funding is crucial for continued meaningful and targeted research on prevention, diagnosis and treatment and much more will be necessary in our efforts to comprehend the complexities of traumatic brain injury.
Traumatic brain injury affects 5.2 million Americans. Government initiatives must extend beyond the athletic fields and focus on all aspects of this silent but burgeoning epidemic. A brain injury is not a passing illness. The lifelong cognitive, emotional, and behavioral consequences of this condition affect every aspect of the victim’s life. A brain injury can affect anyone, anytime, anywhere, and unfortunately, it does. A national proposal attempting to prevent, reduce, and treat brain injury must be comprehensive in scope.
There are those who might have another agenda, not entirely focused on public health. Multi-billion dollar enterprises, such as the NFL, have been jeopardized, and its image tarnished by mushrooming liabilities and the trickledown effect on college and youth sports. The league might have other motivation in joining this project. The NFL employs marketing masterminds to control the public’s perception of concussion risks. The league’s “Heads Up Football” tackle program attempts to convince parents that football can be made safe. Football is a concussion delivery system. While it is beneficial to improve and require “safe” tackling procedures, there is no empirical evidence supporting the position that changing the tackle rules will either reduce the rate or decrease the severity of concussions.
Pixie dust solutions only work in fairy tales. The dangers of concussions remain constant. A concussion is a brain injury: a significant event with potentially life-altering consequences.
Doubtless NFL monetary contributions to fund brain injury research are beneficial. These funds must not be allowed to subtly influence the outcome of that research. When the fox supervises the chicken coop, the outcome becomes predictable. The NFL’s proposed settlement of the pending mass injury lawsuit is a perfect example of the league’s duplicity. No settlement funds have been committed to players who continue to suffer the long-term consequences of the post-concussive syndrome. Despite overwhelming medical evidence, the league steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that a concussion can cause life-long consequences. Those who control the flow of funds, and research, must be vigilant to be impervious to outside influences and any invisible strings that might be attached to the money.
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White House - Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit
I am honored to be invited to attend the president’s Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit tomorrow at the White House.
The goals of the White House Summit on sports concussions scheduled for May 29th must embrace a uniform national protocol to comprehensively tackle the issues related to sports concussion management. This is critical to avoid preventable brain injuries and manage the brain injuries that will unfortunately but inevitably occur. Though many coaches and parents fear the over-protective label, they have justification for their safety concerns.
Sport related concussions have multiplied to epidemic levels. The Centers for Disease Control report almost 250,000 brain injury related emergency department visits each year by children and adolescents. The CDC has cautioned that this frightening statistic is a vast underrepresentation. The available data is limited to organized sports, omitting visits to private physicians, cases where traumatic brain injury is not the principal diagnosis and concussions that remain undiagnosed altogether. In extrapolating, the CDC estimates a more accurate approximation is between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports related traumatic brain injuries each year. Unbelievable but true, this is a public health crisis that commands action on a federal level.
Yes, concussions happen. It is part of the game, but we must implement initiatives to reduce the risk of injury, and prevent, preventable injuries. This national summit on the public health crisis of sports related brain injury and proposing meaningful safety standards is an important move in the right direction.
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White House Sports Concussion Summit
The White House has announced that President Obama will hold a summit on youth sports and concussions on May 29th at the White House entitled, The White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit. The purpose of this meeting is to bring together young athletes, academics, parents and others to raise awareness of traumatic brain injuries in our nation’s youth as a result of sports.
According to a press statement, the administration will announce new commitments by the public and private sectors to raise awareness among athletes, parents, coaches, schools and others on how to identify and treat concussions and to conduct research to help understand how sports-related concussions affect young athletes.