Most Southern Californians remember the tragic incident that occurred on Dec. 1, 2012, when a football player for the Kansas City Chiefs allegedly killed his girlfriend, the mother of his infant daughter, and then went to the Chiefs' training facility and fatally shot himself. There was speculation at the time from the Chicago Sun-Times and numerous other media outlets that the player, Jovan Belcher, may have been suffering from brain injuries sustained during years of hard hits.
Last month, Belcher's family requested that the linebacker's body be exhumed so that doctors could determine whether he was indeed suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. As we have discussed previously, CTE is a "degenerative neurological condition" that can be caused by multiple concussions and has been linked to neurological, memory and behavior issues. As we have noted, although strides have been made in diagnosing CTE in living people, it is only definitively diagnosed post-mortem.
While the results of the exam have not yet been released, Belcher's mother has already filed a wrongful death suit against the Chiefs. She contends that the team failed to provide her son with information on the dangers caused by concussions, take him off the field after he had suffered head injuries or properly treat him after these injuries, including a 2009 incident in which he lost consciousness after a hit.
Most everyone is familiar with the tentative multi-million dollar settlement reached in the class-action suit with the National Football League by over 4,500 former players who contend that years of head trauma resulted in a number of long-term medical problems. The Chiefs have also faced a workers' compensation suit filed by 22 players alleging that the team "ignored decades of scientific research" on the link between repeated head injuries and permanent damage to the brain. They allege that the team gave them drugs and other substances to keep them going after they were injured.
Meanwhile, Belcher's mother is asking for more than $15,000 in punitive and actual damages. She is also requesting that a jury hear her case. No doubt, people will be watching this case, as there are likely to be others. More players are speaking out about the dangers of concussions and the alleged failures of the NFL to properly protect and treat its players. Medical experts are learning more and backing up the players' claims about the links between head injuries and long-term disabilities.
Source: Huffington Post, "Jovan Belcher's Mother Sues Chiefs For Wrongful Death" Dave Skretta, Dec. 31, 2013