Shaun Gayle joined a growing list of former players for the Chicago Bears to file a lawsuit against the NFL. Gayle's lawsuit claims that the NFL never warned him that playing while suffering from a concussion would lead to brain damage. With so many players accusing the NFL of wrongdoing, does Gayle's lawsuit have merit, or is he just another former player looking for a big payday?
Nearly 150 former Bears have filed lawsuits against the NFL. The most famous lawsuit was filed by Dave Duerson's family after his suicide. That suit claimed that the NFL hid the player's condition from him both during his career and after. Other former Chicago players include Keith Van Horne, Dennis Gentry, Jim McMahon, and Shane Matthews. Over 2,600 former players across the NFL have sued so far.
Shaun Gayle says that, like Duerson, he suffers from CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. He claims to have headaches, memory loss, and other symptoms. While it isn't surprising that a player would feel long-term effects after years of being pounded on the field, CTE is more than just an occasional headache. The condition causes depression, and can affect a person's ability to learn.
As awful as CTE may be, some researchers believe that it cannot be completely prevented by helmets. Concussions can also occur whenever there is rapid acceleration or deceleration of the head; meaning that a direct blow to the head is not necessary to cause the injury. This is key, since Gayle has named the helmet manufacturer Riddell in his lawsuit as well.
Gayle has not had an easy road since he left the NFL. He recently made headlines after his pregnant girlfriend was murdered. He stated that he was considered a suspect at first, though another woman he had been involved with was later convicted of the crime. Gayle also lost two former teammates to suicide that have both been linked to CTE. He was not only close to Dave Duerson, but he was also friends with Junior Seau.
It could be that the deaths of his friends made him take a closer look at his own situation. None of us will ever know exactly what was said in the locker rooms after any one of the players involved in the lawsuits was injured. That being said, it is still hard to believe that anyone would believe that playing through a concussion would not have disastrous results. It seems apparent that there is a clear link between the beatings that these guys took on the field and the degenerative disorder that they suffer from now.
The question of whether or not the NFL did enough to help prevent long-term problems is the heart of the matter. The problem is this: if the players win their lawsuit, the game of football may be forever changed. There is no completely safe way to play. Either players will have to sign their lives away when they join the NFL, or the sport will become a no-contact affair. It seems that no matter what the outcome of Gayle's lawsuit, or any of the others waiting in the wings, there will be no winners.
Whitney Levon is a Chicago native whose dedication to the Bears goes back to her first football memory; the Bears' 1985 Super Bowl victory. She has been covering the Chicago Bears and other Chicago teams since 2010.