SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Former college football players hit the National Collegiate Athletic Association with six federal class actions Tuesday, claiming it ignored its duty to protect football players from head trauma despite knowing about the dangers for decades.
Suits in Sacramento, Indianapolis and Orlando also take aim at the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt University is a defendant to the Orlando case. In Chicago, the case takes aim at Penn State and the Big Ten. A case in Salt Lake City takes aim at the Western Athletic Conference.
Daniel Lee Cook, who played football for the University of Oregon from 1971 to 1973, filed his federal class action in San Francisco against the NCAA and the Pacific-12 Conference.
“For decades, defendants Pac-12 and the NCAA, in addition to the University of Oregon, knew about the debilitating long-term dangers of concussions, concussion-related injuries, and sub-concussive injuries (referred to as ‘traumatic brain injuries’ or ‘TBIs’) that resulted from playing college football, but actively concealed this information to protect the very profitable business of ‘amateur’ college football,” Cook says in his 29-page complaint.
Scientists began studying head injuries in football as early as the 1930s, issuing recommendations that players who suffer from concussions should be removed from play.
However, it wasn’t until 2010 that the NCAA — “under mounting public pressure” — enacted new policies requiring colleges to have a concussion management plan in place, Cook claims.
Cook is suing on behalf of all University of Oregon students who played varsity football between 1964 and 2010.
University of Oregon spokesman Tobin Klinger said the university had not yet reviewed the complaint and could not comment. The university is not named as a defendant, but is accused of failing to protect its football players in the content of the complaint.
The NCAA’s 2010 policy mandates that any player showing signs of a concussion be removed from games and practice until the athlete is cleared by a medical professional.
However, Cook argues the new policy still falls short because it requires that players themselves be responsible for reporting their injuries.
“Due to the very nature of concussions, student athletes suffering concussive injuries are in no position to police themselves or to give informed consent about whether to continue playing,” Cook says in the complaint.
During his college football career, Cook suffered multiple concussions and was “knocked out” 15 to 30 times, especially during his freshman year, he says.
Despite earning his mater’s degree and working as a middle school teacher for 30 years, Cook struggled with the effects of head injuries he suffered on the field until his worsening symptoms became apparent to his employers and family.
He could no longer function as a teacher. He needed friends and family to take care of him, and he was diagnosed with dementia, according to his lawsuit.
The lawsuit accuses the NCAA and Pacific-12 of negligence, fraudulent concealment, unjust enrichment and also includes three breach of contract claims.
Cook seeks class certification, damages and injunctive or declaratory relief to protect the interests of the proposed class.
He is represented by Todd Logan of Edelson PC in San Francisco.
The NCAA and Pacific-12 did not immediately respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment on Tuesday.
In 2013, two former college football players also filed federal class actions against the NCAA, seeking damages for negligence and court-supervised medical monitoring.
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