Former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best is suing the NFL and helmet maker Riddell after concussion problems helped cut short his career.
The lawsuit was filed in Wayne County Circuit Court on Tuesday. It alleges the league has been aware of evidence of mild traumatic brain injuries and the risk for its players for years, but "deliberately ignored and actively concealed" the information. It also accuses Riddell of making defective helmets and failing to inform the players of the long-term effects of concussions.
"The NFL, like the sport of boxing, was aware of the health risks associated with repetitive blows producing sub-concussive and concussive results and the fact that some members of the NFL players population were at significant risk of developing long-term brain damage and cognitive decline as a result," the lawsuit reads.
"Despite its knowledge and controlling role in governing player conduct on and off the field, the NFL turned a blind eye to the risk and failed to warn and/or impose safety regulations governing this health and safety problem."
A message was left Wednesday seeking comment from the NFL. Riddell spokeswoman Erin Griffin declined comment Wednesday night.
The Detroit Free Press was the first to report on the lawsuit.
Best's suit comes just days before the Denver Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl on Sunday. It also comes on the heels of a ruling by a federal judge that calls into question the viability of a proposed $765 million settlement of NFL concussion claims.
U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody denied preliminary approval of the plan because she's worried the money for 20,000 retired players could run out sooner than expected. She also raised concerns two weeks ago that anyone who gets concussion damages from the NFL would be barred from suing the NCAA or other amateur football leagues.
Best was selected by the Lions in the first round of the 2010 draft and accounted for 1,000-plus yards and six touchdowns as a rookie. But he was limited to six games during the 2011 season after what he said was the third concussion of his football career. He was cut by Detroit in July.
Best also had a scary fall when he was a college player at California that knocked him out and sent him to the hospital with a concussion and sore back.
Best, who turns 25 on Thursday, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from the NFL and Riddell, to go along with economic and non-economic damages.
"Unfortunately, with these types of injuries, as has been documented, the long-term effects of the injuries to the brain may not manifest themselves for a number of years," Bret Schnitzer, Best's attorney, said in an email to The Associated Press. "Jahvid obviously had some manifestation of concussion syndrome, which is well documented in the media. But in terms of the full extent of the injury to the brain, as we can see from other players and from the science, that can't always be determined in a 25-year-old."
Schnitzer declined to make Best available for an interview.
"He was disabled from playing football due to the concussions. That's all I'm really going to indicate in terms of his condition at this time," Schnitzer said in an email. "It'll develop through the litigation."