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NFL Not Alone In Handling Concussions As ‘Benign’ Problems Says Health And Law Expert

More than 2,000 former football players are suing the , saying the league should have taken action earlier to deal with injuries related to concussions more seriously.

But if a lack of speed in tackling concussions warrants criticism, the isn’t the only player deserving a penalty, according to a study co-authored by health care and law expert , who teaches at Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.

Neurologists were also slow in sounding the alarm, and for decades, concussions were viewed as a “benign phenomenon,” according to Orentlicher.

Orentlicher’s study “Concussion and Football: Failures to Respond by the NFL and the Medical Profession,” co-authored by William S. David of Harvard Medical School, traces the evolution of the medical understanding of concussion over the past several decades.

“In reviewing the response of the National Football League to concussion, one can easily think that the league was too slow to worry about the medical consequences of head trauma,” according to the study published in this month’s Social Science Research Network. “But the extent to which its response was unreasonable is unclear. If many medical experts did not worry about concussions, it is difficult to fault the NFL for not worrying either.”

“Still one can question the NFL’s failure to adopt concussion guidelines in the late 1990s when medical experts did issue guidelines,” Orentlicher said.


David Orentlicher is the Samuel R. Rosen Professor of Law at IU Robert McKinney School of Law, and co-director of the William S. and Christine S. Hall Center for Law and Health, a unit of the McKinney School of Law, which is on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Orentlicher holds an M.D. from Harvard Medical School and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is an adjunct professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine, also at IUPUI.

The study is scheduled for publication in the FIU Law Review of Florida International University College of Law.

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