"More than 200" CFL players with cognitive issues cited in Robyn Wishart profile

"More than 200" CFL players with cognitive issues cited in Robyn Wishart profile

A key figure in both Arland Bruce III's concussion lawsuit against the CFL in B.C. and the class-action suit against the league in Ontario (which now includes seven publicly-identified plaintiffs) is lawyer Robyn Wishart, who represents both Bruce and the class-action plaintiffs. Mike Beamish of The Vancouver Sun has an interesting profile on Wishart, including information on her background as a CFL fan growing up in Winnipeg, how she's doing this as "pro bono work" and working on a contingency-fee basis rather than seeking payment up front, and how she's doing this herself and is "not constrained by a law firm seeking bottom-line profitability." What really stands out is a number included in Beamish's article, though, which illustrates just how massive the scope of this concussion crisis is:

With the Bruce case as a lightning rod, more former CFL players are coming forward in a separate class-action lawsuit Wishart is spearheading in Ontario. “Right now that’s being held up by what’s happening in B.C.,” she says.

The roster of “historical players” with long-term cognitive deficiencies is more than 200 and growing. Some are ex-players who can’t publicly come forward for fear of job loss. All are players who gave up their bodies and brains to football, not knowing the risks to their emotional, physical and mental well-being.

That information isn't a direct quote from Wishart, but this appears to be the first mention of over 200 players with long-term cognitive difficulties. That would put this on par with the numbers involved in the NHL concussion lawsuit. Of course, this doesn't mean all of those players will sue or win money even in the effect of a victory, but it is a big number. It shouldn't really be all that surprising that the numbers are that high, though, given how many people have played in the CFL over the years and how many former football players (in both the NFL and the CFL) have come forward with evidence of their major cognitive struggles. The actual numbers might be even larger; the roster of "more than 200" appears to be what Wishart has found so far. This is more proof that this case isn't just contained to the few people who have been publicly-named so far, though. It's also worth noting that Wishart told Beamish she intends to stick with this fight for the long haul:

Now, Wishart and Bruce await a judgment from the B.C. Court of Appeal, which is combing through the legal aspects of Hinkson’s ruling. Even if that decision goes against the plaintiff a second time, Wishart says she’s prepared to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada. An Ottawa lawyer has volunteered to take the ball if it comes to that.

“We’re going all the way with this,” she says.

...The distinct subculture of men she watched as a girl in Winnipeg she now represents as a lawyer, “heroes” no longer able to watch a game on which they built their lives and identities while suffering from some of its long-term effects.

“These players played for the love of the game,” Wishart says. “That’s why I loved the CFL. I just see things a bit differently now. My goal is to get them treatment. My goal is to get them a place to go. I don’t need to win this lawsuit to do that. But I need this lawsuit to get people talking about it.”

She certainly has people talking about it, as they should be. Concussions, the CFL's handling of them, and its responsibility (if any; the courts will determine that) to players whose lives have deteriorated as a result of concussions are arguably the biggest issues facing this league. The revelation that there are over 200 ex-CFL players who have come forward so far with long-term cognitive difficulties illustrates just how massive of an issue this is for the league's future.