Retired Chicago Bears Player Sues NFL Over Risk of Brain Injuries
Former Bears player Craig Steltz has brought action against the National Football League, claiming that the organization deliberately abandoned its duty to players’ health in concealing the dangers of head injuries relating to the sport.
Steltz claims that under the 2006 and 2011 collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the National Football League Players Association, the NFL assumed a duty to protect the health and safety of the players within the organization, which extended to providing information about the risks to long-term injury. The NFL has moved to remove the suit to federal court, positing that, under the Labor Management Relations Act, federal jurisdiction is merited in suits alleging a violation of an employment contract.
In 2015, the NFL entered into an uncapped settlement with roughly 5,000 players over head trauma and degenerative brain disease resulting from their professional football careers. Steltz argues that he is not part of the class in the 2015 settlement, due to being released from the Bears in 2014.
In 2016, a study conducted by the American Academy of Neurology indicated that roughly 43% of retired NFL players show signs of traumatic brain injuries, a statistic that is three times higher than the general population. Around the same time, the NFL’s top health and safety officer publically acknowledged a link between football-related head trauma and neurodegenerative diseases, after years of denials.
If more suits continue to trickle forward beyond the class settlement, the NFL may have continuing legal battles well into the future.