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Former Falcon Says Doctors Let Him Play Hurt

ATLANTA (CN) - A former Atlanta Falcons player claims in court that inadequate treatment by doctors following a violent on-field collision cost him his NFL career.

Ezekiel "Zeke" Motta was a standout player at the University of Notre Dame, for whom he played in the 2013 BCS National Championship game against University of Alabama and led the team in tackles.

The Atlanta Falcons selected Motta in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL draft, and he subsequently signed a four-year, $2.2 million contract with the team.

On Dec. 8, 2013, during a regular season game against the Green Bay Packers, where he briefly lost consciousness after a collision with two Packers players.

In a complaint filed Nov. 6 in Dekalb County, Motta says the doctors who treated him on the sidelines after he came to failed to perform any kind of meaning medical examination, and he was sent back into the game where he experienced, "continued neck pain and ongoing signs and symptoms of concussion."

The following day, Motta says, he returned to the team facility and received a cursory examination, after which he was clear to practice with the team and participate in its next game.

On Dec. 15, 2013, Motta played in a game against the Washington Redskins, despite being in "tremendous pain throughout."

Motta says it was not until Dec. 20, 2013, that anyone from the Falcons ordered an MRI of his cervical spine.

It revealed that he had suffered a C-1 displaced (approximately 15 millimeters) Jefferson fracture, along with C4-5, C5-6, and C6-7 traumatic bulging discs.

The complaint states that Dr. Joseph Krzemien further aggravated Motta's injury by performing chiropractic readjustments without properly reviewing his condition.

Motta says the delay in that diagnosis -- a direct result, he claims, of the acts and omissions of the treating doctors and chiropractors who treated him -- turned what would have been an "inconvenient injury to a devastating and permanent one - one that effectively ended Zeke Motta's career."

After learning the extent of his injuries, Motta underwent two invasive surgeries and the implantation of steel plates into his spine.

"He was examined by three separate doctors in hopes of returning to his football career, but ultimately the third doctor told him that the instability of his neck post-operation made it too dangerous for plaintiff to ever return to the game of football," the complaint says.

Motta complains of "substantial and persistent chronic pain" that affects his daily life, "including his ability to drive and to adequately perform a desk job, as he is now required to do."

He is seeking unspecified damages on multiple counts of alleged professional negligence by defendants that include Emory Healthcare, Emory Sports Medicine Center, Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center, Georgia Spine and Sports Rehab, Krzemien, and Dr. Spero Karas.

Motta is represented by Stacey Carroll of Atlanta.

Janet Christenbury, director of media relations for Emory Healthcare, declined to comment.

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