(CN) – The National Hockey League must provide a wealth of information to former players who developed long-term neurological conditions, a federal judge ruled.
As proof that the league knew about the growing body of scientific evidence connecting concussions to future neuro-cognitive illness, the players directed the court in St. Paul, Minn., to a concussion program that the league created in 1997.
The players contend that this concussion program led the league to begin documenting such injuries during games from 1997 to 2004, but that league won’t share its findings.
Dealing a major defeat to the league Friday, U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson rejected its claims that releasing such information would violate health-confidentiality laws.
“This is a very unique situation and, as the court has noted on several occasions, the requested information will be equally relevant and important to the NHL’s defense of this action,” Nelson wrote. “If the court were to prohibit the wholesale disclosure of the requested discovery to plaintiffs, its use would be equally unavailable to defendant at trial.
To ensure the privacy of the players involved in the study, Nelson said the league can “de-identify” their information requested by the plaintiffs.
While the players’ names and team numbers will be redacted, their positions and video footage of games in which players sustained hits will not be altered, according to the 30-page opinion.
The decision comes after a federal judge in Pennsylvania approved a $1 billion settlement in April for National Football League players over nearly identical claims that their time on the field had caused degenerative brain diseases like chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disorder mimicking Alzheimer’s Disease and caused by repeated concussions.
Some NFL players who opted out of the settlement argued that the deal let the league avoid disclosing information that purportedly showed its longstanding knowledge about the risks of football — information similar to that Judge Nelson in Minnesota ordered the NHL to deliver.
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