Former Duke football player, UT football player from NC suing NCAA over brain injuries

(Associated Press graphic)

KNOXVILLE (WNCN/WATE) – A former University of Tennessee football player from New London, North Carolina and a former Duke football player have filed separate lawsuits against the NCAA Wednesday.

The law firm representing Duke’s Derrick Lee and UT’s Orenthal James Owens, Edelson PC, said that the former players filed the lawsuits because of the “long lasting effects of a concussion.” Lee’s injuries came between 1998-2003 while Owens’ injuries occurred while he was playing at UT from 2000 to 2003. Both suffered multiple injuries.

Lee’s lawsuit also names the Atlantic Coast Conference while Owens’ lawsuit names the Southeastern Conference.

Lee, from Northport, Alabama, claims he was hit so hard at practice that he had migraine headaches for weeks. In 2000, in suffered a concussion and in 2001, he suffered two concussions that eventually ended his season. The lawsuit claims that Duke failed to implement any concussion management protocols or policies, and failed to implement any return-to-play guidelines.

The lawsuit says that Lee “now suffers from deficits in cognitive functioning, reduced processing speed, decline in attention and reasoning, loss of memory, sleeplessness, mood swings, depression, anxiety, dizziness, fatigue, sensitivity to light, headaches and blackouts, among other issues.”

O.J. Owens in 2004.
O.J. Owens in 2004.
While a defensive back and fullback at North Stanly High School, Owens was a two-team All-State selection and was named first-team All-America by Parade Magazine during his senior year. He transferred to Western Carolina after playing three seasons for Tennessee.

In the lawsuit, Owens claims the SEC and the NCAA were reckless when it came to the safety and health of UT athletes. He claims the governing bodies knew of the possible brain injuries from the sport, but concealed the information in order to make money. The document goes on to say the NCAA and SEC did not create procedures to prevent future health problems, therefore, “breaching” the contracts with each player.

The lawsuit quotes the NCAA’s claim regarding the safety of student athletes, “dedicated to safeguarding the well-being of student-athletes and equipping them with the skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom and throughout life.”

College football players can receive hits to the head that are equivalent to over a hundred car accidents per season, according to the lawsuit.The lawsuit mentions the possible results of brain injuries: memory loss, dementia, depression, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), Parkinson’s disease and more.

The lawsuit is asking for the defendants to financially provide for damages including: past, current and future medical expenses; lost of time; lost of future earnings and attorney fees. Owens is asking for a jury to be provided for the trial.

Two other players from Ohio State and the University of Michigan have filed separate lawsuits against the NCAA to form the class action.

Edelson PC filed six similar lawsuits on behalf of players from Penn State, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Georgia, Oregon and Utah last month.

According to The New York Times, the players are seeking financial relief for their injuries. In the class action filed in May, the plaintiffs played in the Big Ten, the SEC and the Pacific-12.

In January, a federal judge approved a settlement between former athletes with head injuries and the NCAA. However, the settlement did not mention financial relief for the plaintiffs. Instead, it was for $70 million to help former athletes monitor brain injuries, according to the Times.

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