Mark Rypien sues NFL, says he sustained repeated head injuries during career


Mark Rypien is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit that seeks compensation and medical care from the NFL for “repeated traumatic injuries to his head” that he incurred during his playing career. (Mike Powell/GETTY IMAGES)
March 27, 2012

Former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit that seeks compensation and medical care from the NFL for “repeated traumatic injuries to his head” that he incurred during his playing career.

In the suit, which was filed March 23 in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Rypien — along with 126 other former professional football players — allege that the NFL was aware of the dangers and risks of “repetitive traumatic brain injuries and concussions for decades, but deliberately ignored and actively concealed” the information, court documents say.

Theirs is the latest in a rising number of concussion- and head trauma-related class action suits leveled against the NFL by former players. The league is facing about a half-dozen class-action suits and “many more” multi-action suits from an estimated 1,000 former players, according to Gene Locks of the Locks Law Firm in Philadelphia.

Locks’s firm is representing more than 600 former players, including Rypien, in class-action suits.

NFLConcussionLitigation.
com
, a site that tracks such cases, lists 51 suits against the NFL.

“We think the league delayed, didn’t do a competent job of monitoring, and in many cases disregarded what it knew about concussions,” Locks said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “It’s a sad commentary.”

According to the suit, Rypien, 49, suffered multiple concussions and head injuries during his playing days. He says he suffers from “various neurological conditions and symptoms related to multiple head traumas.”

Rypien did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment.

The lawsuit involving Rypien was first reported by the Washington Times on its Web site.

Rypien spent six of his 11 NFL seasons with the Redskins, and in 1991 had his finest season, leading Washington to victory in Super Bowl XXVI and winning the Super Bowl MVP award. He also played for the Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams, Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles.

The former quarterback, who lives in Spokane, Wash., is joined by 13 other former Redskins players — Michael Batiste, Keith Biggers, Jason Doering, Brad Fichtel, Terrell Hoage, Ethan Horton, Ernie Hanet, Bruce Kimball, Ronald Middleton, Ed Simmons, Walter Stanley and James Steffen — in his suit.

They, along with the other plaintiffs, seek “medical monitoring, as well as compensation and financial recovery” for what the lawsuit describes as long-term and chronic “injuries, financial losses, expenses and intangible losses.”

“Our class-action wants the league to check all of these players out, and if they’re okay, give them a clean bill of health,” Locks said. “And if not, we want them to pay for medical care so these players’ conditions, hopefully, don’t get worse. And if the players’ conditions are serious enough, we hope the league will give them compensation.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said repeatedly that his goal is to lower the risk of head injuries in the league. He has handed out hefty fines and suspended players for helmet-to-helmet hits over the last several seasons.

In addition to changing rules to further protect quarterbacks and wide receivers, the NFL last season moved kickoffs up to the 35-yard line, which led to more touchbacks, and decreased the number of concussions by 40 percent, the league reported this week.

The new attention to preventing head injuries coincides with the timing of class-action suits from former players who have suffered concussions.

Last fall, a group of former players — including wide receiver Mike Furrey, who suffered a concussion in 2009 while in training camp with the Redskins and never played again — sued the league. Since then, the number has steadily risen.

Staff writer Mike Wise and researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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