What's buzzing:

55 Yard Line

As concussion legislation piles up in U.S., ex-CFL players take more conciliatory steps

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

View photo

.

Former NFL player and coach Carl Hairston (now with B.C.) is suing the NFL.

Concussions have developed into a massive issue at all levels of football, but the responses from former players on both sides of the border have been notably different. In the United States, the lawsuits are piling up, with over 2,200 former players currently suing the NFL in 79 different actions, which you can read more about at NFL Concussion Litigation. Plenty of prominent former players have become plaintiffs in those cases, too, including 15-year NFL veteran and current B.C. Lions' defensive line coach Carl Hairston. North of the border, players are also taking the news of concussions very seriously, with the CFLPA bringing up the issue with some disturbing (if somewhat questionable) statistics last offseason, prominent former players like Matt Dunigan speaking out about their experiences, many former players signing up for studies (including a new one at the University of Toronto, which will include CFL Alumni Association executive director Leo Ezerins and 19 other players with a history of head injuries and compare them to 20 former players without reported head injuries) and grieving families such as Doug MacIver's donating their loved ones' brains to research efforts. However, thus far, that hasn't developed into litigation. Why have the approaches been so different, and will that change?

Perhaps the most important reason is just the scale of these leagues' revenues. The NFL is one of the biggest sports organizations in the world, and the money the league and its franchises pull in is substantial. Thus, for former players suffering from the aftereffects of concussions, there's a prominent target out there with lots of money. That's not quite the same in the CFL; the league and most of its franchises are making profits, but those profits are minimal next to the NFL's, and suing the CFL doesn't seem like as an attractive proposition.

There are other factors involved too, though; Canadian legislation tends to make it tougher to file and win lawsuits than it is in the U.S., and the CFL has generally been proactive in addressing the concussion issue, working with players and alumni on many fronts thus far. There also hasn't been much discussion about CFL teams hiding evidence on the impacts of concussions from players, an allegation that features prominently in many of the NFL lawsuits. However, that doesn't mean that we won't ever see this kind of legal action pop up in Canada; much depends on the information that continues to come out about concussions, and how current and former CFL players react to that.

These lawsuits are obviously very serious for the NFL, but they would be even more worrying in Canada. As mentioned above, the NFL has plenty of money, so even a massive settlement or court award likely wouldn't doom the league. In the CFL, that's not necessarily the case; while the league as a whole's doing better at the moment than it has been at many periods in recent history, there isn't necessarily still a huge margin for error, and there are still some franchises with significant financial issues (particularly those in southern Ontario). A successful lawsuit might take the entire CFL down or severely hurt it if a massive amount of damages is awarded, and even an unsuccessful one could cost the league a large amount in legal bills.

Thus, the league needs to be incredibly serious about how it addresses concussions, and league bosses need to keep working with current and former players as much as possible to avoid litigation. Although there's much more to be done, the CFL's approach to concussions thus far has generally been very positive, from partnerships to set standards for education and treatment to proactive rule changes to address safety issues. If the league can build on that and stay on good terms with current and former players, maybe the CFL can avoid the wave of lawsuits currently plaguing the NFL.

View Comments (0)
  • Hamilton storms to 11th pole in 12 races

    Hamilton storms to 11th pole in 12 races

    By Alan Baldwin MONZA, Italy (Reuters) - Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton saw off a strong Ferrari challenge at the Italian team's home Grand Prix to seal his seventh pole position in a row and 11th in 12 races on Saturday. The Mercedes … More »

    Reuters - 5 minutes ago
  • British crew member dies in round the world race

    A British crew member of a yacht taking part in the Clipper Round the World race has died after an accident off the coast of Portugal, his team said in on Saturday. Paramedic Andrew Ashman, 49, was reefing a sail on the IchorCoal entry around … More »

    Reuters - 12 minutes ago
  • Ferrari CEO will not leave post before IPO - Marchionne

    Ferrari CEO will not leave post before IPO - Marchionne

    Ferrari Chief Executive Amedeo Felisa will not leave his post before the luxury sportscar maker's initial public offering (IPO) planned for later this year, the boss of parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) said on Saturday. Felisa, who is … More »

    Reuters - 19 minutes ago
  • Hamilton takes 7th straight pole but Ferrari is close behind

    Hamilton takes 7th straight pole but Ferrari is close behind

    Lewis Hamilton extended his recent stranglehold on pole position in Formula One, while Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel gave Ferrari fans something to cheer about at their home Italian Grand Prix by qualifying second and third Saturday. … More »

    AP - Sports - 20 minutes ago
  • Hamilton takes 11th pole in 12 races

    Hamilton takes 11th pole in 12 races

    By Alan Baldwin MONZA, Italy (Reuters) - Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton put Mercedes on pole position for the Italian Grand Prix on Saturday with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen joining him on the front row. The pole was Hamilton's 11th in 12 … More »

    Reuters - 26 minutes ago