Jahvid Best was a first-round draft pick for the Detroit Lions in 2010. Only three years later, the team released Best due to health complications the running back suffered as a result of incurring multiple concussions on the playing field. Best is now the latest NFL alum to join a long list of others in suing the league for intentionally downplaying the long-term risks of concussions and their role in later-life cognitive decline.
Best’s suit names the NFL, as well as helmet-manufacturers Riddell and Easton-Bell sports as defendants in the case. Under Michigan’s workers’ compensation laws, Best is precluded from suing his team directly for an on the job injury unless the employer committed an intentional tort. Still, he may be entitled to some money under the workers’ compensation scheme, and Best currently has a pending workers’ comp claim against the Lions organization.
Interestingly, Best’s lawsuit appears to be the first proactive suit of its kind, as he is not claiming to currently suffer from some of the more serious head trauma-related ailments (such as dementia or Alzheimer’s) which plague his ex-NFL counterparts. Brett Schnizter, Best’s attorney, commented “[u]nfortunately, with these types of injuries . . . the long-term effects of the injuries to the brain may not manifest themselves for a number of years.” Given the potential for these latent injuries to cause progressive symptoms which worsen over time, Schnitzer stated that the suit was designed “to protect Mr. Best down the road in terms of his medical condition and problems that he may have in the future.”
When asked about Best’s current health condition, Schnitzer refused to comment other than indicating that Best “was disabled from playing football due to the concussions. That’s all I’m really going to indicate in terms of his condition at this time. It’ll develop through the litigation.”