Updated at 4:35 p.m. Jan. 25, 2013
Junior Seau’s suicide in May 2012 was a “direct and proximate result of having suffered multiple past traumatic brain injuries while playing professional football for the NFL from 1990-2009,” says his family’s lawsuit made public Friday for the first time.
Filed in San Diego Superior Court on Wednesday but not “imaged”—or posted online—until Friday morning, the 60-page complaint is a devastating indictment of the National Football League.
It cites in detail the history of brain injuries suffered by players and alleges the NFL failed to act to prevent them.
“Part of the NFL Defendants’ strategy to promote NFL football is to glorify the brutality and ferocity of NFL football,” says the complaint on behalf of the family of the former Chargers linebacker and Oceanside resident.
The suit says the NFL lauds and mythologizes “the most brutal and ferocious players and collisions, [while] simultaneously propagating the fraudulent representation that ‘getting your bell rung,’ ‘being dinged’ and putting big hits on others is a badge of courage which does not seriously threaten one’s health.”
As a result of this strategy, the NFL propagated the “false myth” that collisions of all kinds, including brutal and ferocious collisions—“many of which lead to short-term and long-term neurological damage to players—are an acceptable, desired and natural consequence of the game, and a measure of the courage and heroism of players involved at every level of the game.”
Previous story: Junior Seau Family Sues the NFL for Wrongful Death Over Brain Injuries
The complaint is attached to this story.
A jury trial was demanded and the case was assigned to Superior Court Judge Randa Trapp, who has been the subject of anonymous attacks on her competence.
Attorneys for Seau’s four children, a guardian and ex-wife are led by Steven Strauss of San Diego, who defended Seau in a 2006 case brought by two women who alleged that an “obviously intoxicated” Seau ruined their clothing by throwing two large glasses of red liquid at them at a downtown San Diego bar.
“The suit seeks damages of at least $25,000 for each woman,” according to a Washington Post report in 2007. It also states Seau used ‘female-specific profanities’ to describe the women’s bodies.”
The latest suit said the NFL covered up extensive evidence of the game’s dangers to protect its cash flow.
“Annually, the NFL redistributes approximately $4 billion in radio, television, and 18 digital earnings to the teams or approximately $125 million per team,” the suit said. “Those revenue numbers have increased since 2009.”
NFL Films used players, including Seau, to “spread the fraudulent message that brutal violence is a necessary part of the sport. In 1993’s NFL Rocks, Junior Seau offered his opinion on the measure of a punishing hit: ‘If I can feel some dizziness, I know that guy is feeling double [that],’” said the suit, adding.
In a segment of the same film, former Houston Oilers receiver Ernest Givens is quoted as saying: ‘I get knocked out a lot, I get concussions, I get broken noses, that is part of being a receiver, that’s what separates you from being a typical receiver than a great receiver.
Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin recites a similar unawareness of the risks of concussions: “Before the game, I go to the [defensive backs] and tell them, `Hey, you know I’ll trade a concussion for a reception!’
In a study of NFL retirees, 11.1 percent of all respondents reported having a diagnosis of clinical depression, the suit says.
From 1994 until 2010, the NFL conducted head injury research through its Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee and “openly disputed that any short-term or long-term harmful effects arose from football-related sub-concussive and concussive injuries,” the suit says.
The NFL disseminated what the suit called its “own falsified research” to support its position.
In 2010, the NFL renamed the MTBI Committee the Head, Neck and Spine Medical Committee. And in October 2011, the suit said, “Dr. Mitchel Berger of the NFL's new Head, Neck, and Spine Medical Committee announced that a new study was in the planning process. He admitted that the MTBI Committee's previous long-range study was useless because ‘[t]here was no science in that.’”
In its case against helmet-maker Riddell, the suit says: “Despite years of science and medicine linking the risk of long term brain injury from repeat concussions, it was not until the release of the Revolution Helmet wherein a notification reminding players to ‘sit out’ if they suffer a concussion was placed on the Revolution helmet.”
The suit listed some of the “extensive injuries” in Seau’s NFL career, including a chronic torn rotator cuff, shattered bones in his forearm, chronic ankle, knee, shoulder, toe injuries, back pain and “severe bruising all over his body on a regular basis.”
“Yet he rarely missed games for these injuries or even complained about pain or injuries,” the suit says. “Instead, he received injections for pain and inflammation to play through his ever-present injuries.
He also suffered “innumerable blows directly to his head” and several times was hit so hard that he suffered facial lacerations, the suit said.
“On numerous occasions, Seau left the field because he was dazed. He would sit on the sidelines until he regained his bearings and he would then return to the game,” the suit noted.
The suit slammed what it called the “despicable conduct of the NFL,” which was “fraudulent, malicious, and oppressive and was done with the intent to defraud team coaches past and present NFL players and the general public.”