Washington • Ten former National Hockey League players, including All-Star forward Gary Leeman, claimed in a class-action lawsuit that the league hasn't done enough to protect players from concussions.
The lawsuit seeks damages and court-approved, NHL-sponsored medical monitoring for the players' brain trauma and/or injuries, which they blame on their NHL careers. It was filed in federal court in Washington on behalf of players who retired on or before Feb. 14 of this year and have suffered such injuries.
The suit comes just three months after the National Football League agreed to pay $765 million to settle lawsuits from thousands of former players who developed dementia or other concussion-related health problems and in an era when more attention is being paid to the damages of head injuries sustained in sports.
Among other things, the suit claims that:
• The NHL knew or should have known about scientific evidence that players who suffer repeated head injuries are at greater risk for illnesses and disabilities both during their hockey careers and later in life.
• Even after the NHL created a concussion program to study brain injuries affecting NHL players in 1997, the league took no action to reduce the number and severity of concussions during a study period from 1997 to 2004. "Plaintiffs relied on the NHL's silence to their detriment," the suit says.
• The league didn't do anything to protect players from unnecessary harm until 2010, when it made it a penalty to target a player's head.
Bill Daly, the league's Deputy Commissioner, issued a statement Monday.
"While the subject matter is very serious, we are completely satisfied with the responsible manner in which the league and the players' association have managed player safety over time, including with respect to head injuries and concussions," the statement said. "We intend to defend the case vigorously and have no further comment at this time."