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Second Youth-Concussion Lawsuit Filed Against NCAA

For the second time this month, former college football players have filed a class action lawsuit against the NCAA for failing to protect them from concussions and the side effects of concussions.

Back in mid-September, a former East Carolina University football player filed suit against the NCAA, alleging that the organization "failed its student-athletes—choosing instead to sacrifice them on an altar of money and profits."

The chief plaintiff, Adrian Arrington, suffered multiple concussions in his four-year playing career. The suit accuses the NCAA of being negligent in terms of responding to the dangers of concussions, including failing to correct dangerous tackling techniques.

On Wednesday, a very similar suit was filed on behalf of two former college football players in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (the same court where Arrington's lawsuit was filed).

The two lead plaintiffs in this suit are former University of Central Arkansas wide receiver Derek K. Owens and former Northwestern University offensive lineman Alex Rucks. Both say "their lives have been fundamentally altered as the result of brain trauma that could have been prevented," according to a statement from their lawyer.

Owens and Rucks make many of the same allegations against the NCAA that Arrington did: It doesn't do enough to prevent dangerous tackling techniques, failed to set up an organization-wide system for screening head injuries, and doesn't provide sufficient post-college support to student-athletes injured while at school.

Much like Arrington, Owens and Rucks claim that NCAA football coaches continue to encourage helmet-to-helmet hits and other unsafe tackling methods, despite such hits being clearly outlawed during games.

And as I've noted before, the pervasiveness of the "put your hat on the ball" theory of defense, as referenced by former Cowboys safety Darren Woodson in a recent ESPN Commentary, could certainly lend credence to the players' arguments.

Given the fundamental similarities between the Owens' and Rucks lawsuit and Arrington's case, don't be surprised if the two lawsuits are eventually combined.

Any current or former college student-athletes interested in joining the class action can do so online.

Bob Williams, the NCAA's vice president of communications, sent me a statement from the organization via email.

"The NCAA is still examining the allegations contained within the complaint, and we do not know the specific circumstances of Mr. Owens and Mr. Rucks. However, based on our initial review, we believe that the complaint, which is merely a copycat of a complaint filed last week, contains gross misstatements about the NCAA and demonstrates that these plaintiffs' attorneys have a fundamental misunderstanding of the association. The NCAA has been concerned about the safety of all of its student-athletes, including those playing football, throughout its history. Indeed, the organization was formed in large measure more than 100 years ago to help regulate safety within the sport of college football. We have specifically addressed the issue of head injuries through a combination of playing rules, equipment requirements, and medical best practices. For more information, please visit www.ncaa.org/concussions."

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