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Hockey Players Sue League For Failing to Address Head Injuries

On Monday, ten retired N.H.L. players sued the league for fraud and negligence

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Earlier this week, ten retired N.H.L. players sued the league for fraud and negligence, arguing that for years the league ignored the dangers of head injuries and failed to curb the culture of violence. The players taking action include famous players like Rick Vaive, Darren Banks and Gary Leeman, who began their careers back in the ’70s and ’80s.

Ken Belson from the New York Times explains:

In seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, the players said in their complaint that the N.H.L. “knew or should have been aware” of the effects of head hits but “took no remedial action to prevent its players from unnecessary harm” until 1997, when the league created a program to research and study brain injuries. Even then, the suit said, “the N.H.L. took no action to reduce the number and severity of concussions among its players during that period and Plaintiffs relied on the N.H.L.’s silence to their detriment.”

The suit comes just a few months after the National Football League paid $765 million to former players for similar concussion related side effects. The players argue that not only did the NHL know about the risks of head injury, the league actually tried to conceal just how much it knew.

The NHL, of course, claims no wrong doing. “While the subject matter is very serious, we are completely satisfied with the responsible manner in which the league and the Players’ Assn. have managed player safety over time, including with respect to head injuries and concussions,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. “We intend to defend the case vigorously and have no further comment at this time.”

Football often gets the majority of the press about head injuries, but other full contact sports like boxing and hockey are seeing players with long term side effects as well. It’s been 16 years since the NHL began studying concussions, but it wasn’t until 2011 that they issued new concussion protocols. And for players feeling the impact, that’s far too long.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Climate Change’s Latest Victim: Ice Hockey
The N.H.L. Officially Welcomes Gay Players With Most Inclusive Measures of Any Professional Sport

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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