There is so much litigation by ex-players against the National Football League that it invites a form of apathy, which I’ll call “concussion fatigue.” The easy-to-dismiss will always find these lawsuits easy to dismiss, because they involve a form of double-clutching by risk-taking professionals … because lawyers stand to profit (as if legal redress were otherwise possible in our society) … just because. Such are both general cynicism and the overheated investment of fans in the continuation of their uninterrupted junk entertainment.
But while the mass and class actions of disabled NFL veterans grab the headlines – that is, from those media outlets willing to give the concussion crisis any coverage at all – I’ve never felt that these would be the keys to chop-blocking Football America’s out-of-control popularity and participation. That will have to happen in the youth and high school leagues. The sweet spot is the coming cluster of cases on behalf of victims of death and catastrophic injuries in games sanctioned by public school districts. It won’t take many of them before the stewards of these taxpayer-supported institutions take a hard look at the viability of this particular “enrichment program.”
I’ve pointed to the Ryne Dougherty case in New Jersey, since that one zeroes in on one of the most important fault lines of “concussion awareness”: death from a second traumatic brain injury following a return-to-play decision involving the use of the vaunted but criminally overemphasized ImPACT “concussion management system.” But a case in my state, California, may have beaten the Dougherty suit to the edge, as they like to say in this sport.
The family of Scott Eveland, 22, has settled with the San Marcos Unified School District for close to $4.4 million. As a result of a head injury sustained during a Mission Hills High School game in 2007, Eveland is permanently confined to a wheelchair. He can communicate only by having someone support his elbow while he types on an iPad.
As part of the settlement, the district admits no responsibility, yadda yadda yadda.