Friday, November 15, 2013

Former KU fullback files concussion lawsuit against NCAA


Christopher Powell, a fullback on the Kansas University football team from 1990-94, has filed a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA and is seeking an undetermined amount of damages for himself and athletes who suffered head trauma during their college careers.

According to a statement released by the law firm representing Powell, the former Jayhawk’s “primary concern, and the principal purpose for the lawsuit, is to protect him and other student athletes that played football in the NCAA from future harms associated with concussions.”

The lawsuit includes charges of negligence, concealment and unjust enrichment relating to head injuries and research on their effects. In the filing, Powell said he incurred multiple concussions during his time in Lawrence, but KU is not named in the lawsuit.

Powell played for former KU coach Glen Mason, who coached the Jayhawks from 1988-96. Powell’s bio in the 1994 media guide lists him as “one of the best backfield blockers in the Big Eight” and “a tough, physical player who enjoys contact.” A Mason quote praising Powell also is highlighted in the guide.

“Chris Powell is what college football is all about,” Mason’s quote reads. “There is not a better blocking fullback in the conference, and I doubt if there is a better blocking fullback in the nation. He’s part of the heart and soul of this team.”

After red-shirting in 1990, Powell appeared in more than 30 games for KU, with a majority of his playing time coming via special teams. As a ball carrier, he gained 125 yards on 37 carries and scored one touchdown.

Current KU coach Charlie Weis has talked often about the serious nature of head injuries and has backed up his words by holding players out when they experience any kind of symptoms, even after being medically cleared by doctors. The most recent example of Weis’ discretion concerns junior Tony Pierson, who has missed parts of five games this season after suffering a concussion late in a loss to Texas Tech on Oct. 5.

Last week’s loss at Oklahoma State marked Pierson’s return to KU’s lineup and Weis said he suffered no setbacks.

“I know one thing,” Weis said shortly after Pierson suffered the initial injury. “With Tony or anyone else, at least at Kansas, we’re gonna err on the side of caution.”

According to the lawsuit, Powell is seeking a jury trial.


Phil Leister 8 years, 8 months ago

I will never, ever, ever side with these guys who sue the NCAA or NFL because they got concussions. It's a bullcrap way to get a paycheck. Football is a dangerous sport. If you don't know that you're risking concussion when you put those pads on, you've got problems. Nobody forces these guys to play football.

Unless someone can prove that a coaching staff FORCED the guy back on the field after a concussion before he's fully recovered, then these lawsuits are ridiculous. It's like suing McDonald's because the coffee is too hot, or suing Nutella because you didn't know it was unhealthy.

Adam Miller 8 years, 8 months ago

What are your feelings on steel works who get mesothelioma from asbestos exposure? Or a factory worker who loses an arm to a piece of machinery? How about a soldier who is crippled from an IED? What about the treatment of the PTSD that will probably follow?

Would those people simply be aiming for a paycheck when they ask for -- or receive -- some form of compensation? Is it a "too bad, you knew the job you signed up for" solution for them as well -- I mean, it's not like anyone FORCED them into their jobs.

Beyond that; YOU are aware of concussion dangers NOW... that doesn't exactly hold true for other people in the past. This issue is really starting to come to a head at this moment... but for how long have things been going on unnoticed? Also a lot of the dangers/symptoms from a concussion can vary greatly from person to person.

That's why I look at the situation more under the frame of a workers disability/workman's comp lawsuit. Look, I don't think there should be billion dollar settlements -- but at the minimum, their healthcare should be provided indefinitely as the symptoms can be debilitating for the long run.

You have Google, read up on what repeated (or even single) concussions can do to an individual. You might find yourself a bit more sympathetic.

Doug Cramer 8 years, 8 months ago

Agree with Phil on this one. Yes...we did know concussions were dangerous in the 90s...and no...nobody forced anyone to play football. When you step in that field to play a full contact game where big hits are are at risk of being hurt. That's a choice you receive scholarship money to attend school.

Eliott Reeder 8 years, 8 months ago

I used to laugh at all the jokes about the McD's lady spilling coffee until I saw this...

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 8 months ago

way to take this comment section to the extremes.

I fall somewhere in the middle on this issue. Sports' governing bodies need to do more for former employees, and if lawsuits are the only way to make that happen, then I guess you gotta do it, but I'm afraid that the end game of this could be ugly for the teams, leagues, and players. Tread carefully, or kill sport.

Ultimately, players salaries are far too high. Some teams are making billions, some teams are broke. Professional sports is an industry, and I believe in a free market... however, professional sports is also part of the entertainment business and one team can't exist without another. These leagues need the teams that are in them.

Players salaries need to come down, starting at the top. Teams need to be forced by the league to put more of the money they save on salaries into a League sponsored medical/healthcare policy that treats all players the same regardless or team or salary. Players should earn more coverage by the number of years spent in the game or as needed when dealing with severe or career limiting/ending injuries.

There is plenty of money in professional sports to make this work, but it will take sacrifices on the part of the players unions, on the part of the league's franchises, and of the governing body itself.

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