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NFL Concussion Suit Sheds New Light on the Inherent Risk of Workplace Injuries

June 15, 2018

Football player holding his helmetIf you’re like most individuals, you perform hundreds of activities each day at home and in the workplace. In some instances, these regular activities that you might have believed to be harmless end up hurting you many years down the road. When those activities were work-related, the fact that they were “just part of the job” doesn’t mean your employer is off the hook if you need medical attention.

A good example of this is the NFL concussion lawsuit. In the NFL, there is an inherent risk that a player will be injured when he steps on the field. This risk is obvious and by playing football, the players have assumed this inherent risk. The doctrine of assumption of risk, in addition to the the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) the league enters into with the NFL Players Association, prevents players from filing suit when they suffer an on-the-field injury.

What the players (and the teams, owners, and league) claim not to have known, or perhaps knew but did not want to acknowledge, is that every-day injuries, particularly head injuries, can have serious long-term impacts on the players. The NFL is now being sued by past players who think that the league was negligent for not protecting them from long-term injuries or at least warning them about the risk of long-term injuries.

How this translates into the non-football world is still a bit unclear since the NFL suit is rather unique, but it is something employees who have assumed the risk of day-to-day injuries should keep in the back of their minds. If years down the road the cumulative impacts of those small, every-day injuries start to add up to something major, it may be time to investigate whether the employer failed to properly protect or adequately warn employees of the long-term dangers they faced.