Approximately 1,200 former professional football players and their family members are suing the NFL, claiming that its rules and conduct put them at greater risk for head trauma and injury, which ultimately led to damage to their brains.
One of the plaintiffs is 76-year-old Alex Karras, a former defensive tackle. He is also well-known for his later acting career, playing Mongo in "Blazing Saddles," and a father in the comedy "Webster." He, like many of the former players, says he has suffered serious damage to the brain.
Karras has dementia and is no longer able to participate in any of the activities that he once took such a passion in, such as driving or cooking. He now can't recall his favorite recipes or safely get behind the wheel of one of his cars. The lawsuits being pursued by him and many others claims that the league was negligent when it came to providing treatment for players' head injuries, and provided information which misled them about the seriousness of the risks they were taking on the football playing field.
In years past, they contend, the dangers of a concussion to football players was either ignored completely or minimized, despite the fact that they were repeatedly suffering hits to the head and being sent back to the game.
Some former players suffer from significant memory loss, including forgetting the names of friends or family, or start a trip and forget where they planned to go. In some instances, doctors have told former players that the impact of past head injuries has lingered or worsened over time, causing portions of their brains to receive insufficient amounts of oxygen.
As recently as 2009, the NFL's commissioner gave congressional testimony downplaying any possible link between on-field concussions and players' later brain damage. No league insurance plan exists to pay for medical expenses for ex-players' brain injuries.
Source: Star Tribune, "Alex Karras puts face on lawsuit over head injuries in the NFL," Tim Dahlberg, April 15, 2012