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Concussion Lawsuits Filed Against Riddell Over Football Helmets

A lawsuit filed against the football helmet manufacturer Riddell alleges that the company sold products that failed to protect athletes from concussions and traumatic brain injuries, despite marketing claims. 

A group of 34 former college football players filed the concussion lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on January 30, indicating that the plaintiffs suffered head injuries that could have been avoided if the football helmets lived up to the advertising claims.

The complaint (PDF) names Riddell, Inc. and its subsidiaries as defendants, and some experts suggest that it could be the first in a wave of lawsuits against football helmet manufacturers.

Riddell’s website has a motto: “The game of the future will be won with the brain. And the helmet, the space to which we hold the rightful ownership, is the home of the brain. That space most represents the future of the game.” Plaintiffs maintain that this and other statements made by the manufacturer misrepresent the effectiveness of it’s helmets.

“Riddell betrayed this self-declared ownership as the protector of its customers’ brains and well-being, when it knowingly and negligently developed, designed, tested, marketed, promoted, advertised, distributed and sold dangerous and defective football helmets that lacked critical and accurate safety information relating to the products,” the lawsuit states. “As a direct result of Riddell’s wrongful misconduct and omissions, Plaintiffs have suffered permanent injuries and/or were left at an elevated risk for grievous injuries and latent damages to [the] brain.”

According to the complaint, Riddell claimed the helmets would protect players from head trauma, repetitive head impacts, and concussions, knowing that the helmets could not perform as advertised. The lawsuits indicate that in the 80s and early 90s, the company placed warnings on helmets noting that they could not protect from all head injuries, and that the game of football carried inherent risks, particularly when the helmet was used to strike opponents.

In 2002, the manufacturer began advertising the “Riddell Revolution Helmet,” which it claimed was 31% safer than other helmets. Riddell indicated that the company’s advanced technology made its helmets safer and helped better protect players from concussions.

“Riddell knew or had reason to know that these representations about the increased protection offered by Riddell’s Revolution were false, and after a Federal Trade Commission investigation, were forced to stop making that marketing claim,” the lawsuit notes.

The former players present charges of negligence, design defect, and failure to warn.

Traumatic Brain Injury Risks

Research published in 2014 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry concluded survivors of serious head injuries may be three times more likely to face a premature death. In fact, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can have lasting long-term effects and patients may take longer to recover and may face an early death as a result.

A study published in 2014 in the journal Radiology found that men are more vulnerable to suffering TBIs than women and may take longer to recover following a concussion.

Approximately 70% of sports related head injuries are reported among persons ages 0 to 19. The largest number of concussions among males occurred while playing football and basketball, as well as bicycling. Among females the largest number of head injuries occurred while bicycling, during playground activities and while horseback riding.

Traumatic brain injuries are one of the leading causes of death and permanent disability worldwide, with 1.4 to 1.7 million people suffering a head injury each year. Such brain damage often result in a victim requiring extensive medical treatment and permanent around-the-clock care.

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