by Brad Biggs
January 10, 02012
As concussions and traumatic head injuries continue to be the focus of safety initiatives for players, teams are increasingly concerned about their potential liability.
Need proof? According to multiple NFL sources, the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins are attempting to get players with a history of concussions or multiple traumatic brain injuries to sign a waiver and release relating to that condition. In other words, the Falcons and Redskins don’t want to be on the hook for any brain injuries for players that have suffered them before, players that could potentially be more susceptible to brain injuries in the future. It’s believed these waivers sought by the Falcons and Redskins are the first of their kind.
Injury waivers are nothing new. Teams use them from time to time and the NFLPA has agreed to them in the past as long as they pertained to orthopedic issues. For example, a player with a history of right knee issues might be asked to sign a waiver for that specific knee.
In a memo sent from the NFLPA to agents, the players association instructed contract advisors not to agree to any contracts with language releasing the club from liability in regards to concussions or brain injuries.
“We strongly believe that no player should sign a waiver with respect to concussions and agents are not authorized to negotiate injury waivers that would include such a pre-existing condition,” the letter states. “To be clear, it is the official policy of the NFLPA that you should strongly discourage a player from ever signing any waiver and release covering a history of concussions and you are not authorized to negotiate any such waiver. Accordingly, if you negotiate and sign a player to a Player Contract that contains a waiver and release relating to concussions or similar traumatic brain injury you will be subject to discipline for violating your obligations under the NFLPA Regulations Governing Contract Advisors.
“If NFL an club believes that a player is at increased unacceptable risk of re-injury relating to traumatic brain injury sustained while playing football and they are concerned about the long-term effects of such injury, the club medical staff should inform the player of that opinion and then refuse to sign him to a Player Contract since medically it would be in the best interest of that player to cease playing football. If, on the other hand, there is not such worry on the part of the club’s medical staff they should be willing to sign that player without any such waiver.”
This is just the latest example of the fear NFL clubs have when it comes to head injuries and the seriousness of a situation that is growing with lawsuits over head injuries multiplying.
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune