Since former CFL receiver Arland Bruce III launched the first concussion lawsuit against the CFL's teams in July 2014, a lot has happened on the concussion front. The NFL's concussion lawsuit settlement of over $900 million was approved in April 2015 (although it's still being challenged in court by objectors), two further CFL players (Korey Banks and Eric Allen) filed a separate suit with class-action potential in June 2015, Rod Woodward joined them in September, and head injuries came to further prominence this winter with the release of the Will Smith movie Concussion, on the initial research into football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy and the NFL's interference with that. The CFL also drew flack for its refusal to address concussions at this year's Grey Cup, while the NFL's interference with research funding drew criticism, and scientists got closer to the "holy grail" of concussion research (diagnosing CTE in the living).
Amidst all that, Bruce's lawsuit has progressed quite slowly. The CFL and Dr. Charles Tator filed to dismiss it in September 2014, and arguments on that front were heard by B.C. Supreme Court judge Brian Joyce last June, but Joyce withdrew from the case with an unspecified illness in January, causing B.C. Supreme Court judge Christopher Hinkson to step in. Bruce, his lawyer (Robyn Wishart), and CFL lawyer Stephen Shamie all appeared before Hinkson Tuesday and made most of the same arguments they did in June, with Shamie saying this grievance should go to arbitration and Wishart saying Bruce never relinquished his right to sue (on that front, it's notable that the CBA and the standard player contract don't release clubs from negligence, which is what Bruce is claiming happened). The new and interesting parts, though, were the comments Bruce made to media outside the courtroom:
Mr. Bruce, speaking with reporters outside the courtroom, said he’s not looking for sympathy; he’s “looking for justice for all players.”
“I have a son myself, so if he plays football, I want him to be aware, too, to make the game safer, and I think this is going to help make the game safer,” he said. “It’s going to put a lot of great minds together to come up with ideas to make the game safer so it can continue being great.”
Mr. Bruce said he still gets regular headaches, but his condition has somewhat improved thanks to his doctors and medication.
“Sunlight’s not as bad as it used to be for me. But I’m improving, I’m improving a lot, man. I’m remaining positive, I don’t want to get down on myself. Because I was out of it for about eight months,” he said, referring to a time after he stopped playing when the headaches were more severe.
Being "out of it for about eight months" shows just how serious concussions are, and that's something that matches up with the experiences of other concussed athletes. Head injuries are incredibly serious, and they've left their mark on Bruce:
Mr. Bruce, when asked what goes through his mind when he sees the effects that concussions have had on other football players, said he just hopes to keep healing.
“I hope I beat the odds,” he said. “That’s my everyday grind. I hope I beat the odds because it’s like I was in a car accident and I just happened to be in a car accident playing football. It doesn’t happen to too many people, and I just happened to be one of those players that got the bad end of the stick.”
As the growing numbers joining Wishart's class-action lawsuit (she's said it involves over 100 players) indicate, though, those numbers of players who "got the bad end of the stick" are not insignificant. We already know of plenty of former CFL players who were diagnosed with CTE after their deaths, including Doug MacIver, Cookie Gilchrist, and Jay Roberts and Bobby Kuntz, and CTE is only one of the many traumatic brain injuries that can result from concussions and football. We'll see if Justice Hinkson rules that this case should proceed, that it should relocate to Ontario, or that it should be thrown out altogether and the parties should be sent to mediation, but it seems clear that Bruce and many others are suffering substantially from concussions they sustained playing in the CFL. We don't know what end result that will lead to in court, but it certainly should be a major concern for the league.