American Football dangers

Riddell Guilty of Failure to Warn Football Player about Concussion Dangers

A lawsuit brought on behalf of a Colorado high school football player injured during a 2008 practice has resulted in a jury award of $3.1 million against helmet manufacturer Riddell. While the jury rejected the plaintiff’s claim that the helmet was defective, it held Riddell responsible for “failure to warn” of potential dangers associated with its use.

The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment sets the safety standards that most helmet manufacturers use. However, critics have argued that because NOCSAE is funded largely by industry-supported organizations, inherent conflicts of interest create a situation akin to “the fox watching the henhouse.”

American Football dangersFor its part, Riddell told the New York Times that “We remain steadfast in our belief that Riddell designs and manufactures the most protective football headgear for the athlete.” It added that it felt the judge had wrongly disallowed testimony from its lead warning expert. The company said it will appeal the ruling.

Legal analysts believe the ruling could have an impact on Riddell’s standing in several other lawsuits alleging that its marketing communications have misled potential consumers. At issue once again will be the concept of “failure to warn.” Plaintiffs will argue that the company inaccurately claimed its helmets substantially reduce the risk of concussions, and that it failed to fully disclose known risks.

The ruling could also have implications for an ongoing lawsuit between the NFL Players Association and the league. In that case, 400 former players and their spouses have alleged that the league knew about the long term consequences of mild traumatic brain injury and withheld that information from the players.

Helmet safety advocates point out that companies producing head protection gear have already begun responding to increased consumer awareness of the risk and consequences of head injuries by investing in products that will lessen their impact.

“The litigation has caused a wonderful thing to happen,” Phil Jones, founder and President of Dynavision International LLC. told Forbes magazine. “One hundred million in funds have been delivered to do research to get ahead of the game.”

Several prominent former NFL players suffer from conditions ranging from depression to dementia to Alzheimer’s. Some, including Pro Bowl linebacker and fan-favorite Junior Seau and well-traveled running back Dorsey Levins — who made a documentary on football related concussions — have committed suicide.

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