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Why We Represent Players

Zach Needell
Law Clerk,The Law Office of Luis Cartaya, PA
Juris Doctor, Emory University School of Law; 2018

Working for The Law Office of Luis Cartaya, PA . in Boca Raton, FL, a law firm working on behalf of individual retired NFL players in the NFL Concussion Class Action Settlement, you see firsthand what repeated concussions and other head injuries can do to athletes; it’s scary. These men, some younger than thirty years old, have endured significant brain trauma and are already experiencing the effects of those injuries: memory loss, irritability, balance issues, light and sound sensitivity, migraines, anti-social or violent behavior, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.

Some say that people know that football isn’t safe and those who choose to play it are assuming the risk by putting on the helmet. Ignoring the holes in the logic of that argument, the point is still moot. The current fight over responsibility to these players is not about whether we recognize that football is a dangerous sport: it is. Rather, this is a case where the true effects of head injuries in football were unknown not because medical research had yet to discover it, but because a league who makes its living on men playing with reckless disregard for their health, safety, and well-being did not want to alert those players to the long-term effects of their injuries.

Within this Settlement, the NFL will pay Retired NFL Players, including those under the age of 45, if they receive a Qualifying Diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, severe dementia, and moderate dementia. These are illnesses that many of us in society know about all too well, but usually we know of them only in reference to an older friend or family member. These diseases that ruin and end lives almost never naturally occur in younger people, yet it is an epidemic among football players.

These are men who have been lied to. Who can be trusted to tell them the truth about the dangers of the sport they’re playing? Their coaches from Pop Warner, high school, college, or the pros? Their friends whose lifestyles are on their payroll? The league making millions off their physical play, endorsements, and jersey sales? Of course not. Everyone surrounding these men stands to gain too much to tell the truth about just how much they are really risking. Someone needs to help them get the truth about the effects of their time playing football and get compensated for the damage that has been done. That’s what we’re here for, and we couldn’t be more proud to work toward that aim.

Broadcasters and sports journalists often evoke images of warriors and gladiators when talking about football players, and they’re not wrong. The problem is we made it very clear to ancient warriors and gladiators that they were risking their lives. It’s only right that we demand the same level of honesty and justice on behalf of our modern-day gladiators. While today the NFL is making more efforts to protect players and limit traumatic and repeated head injuries, those who were damaged at the hands by the sport’s complacency and blasé attitude toward head injuries continue to suffer and deserve to be compensated. We are proud to represent these players and we look forward to helping them get everything they deserve.

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