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Former College Athletes Sue NCAA over Concussions

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Four former college athletes are suing the NCAA, as first reported by The New York Times, alleging that the association sacrificed the safety of student athletes by failing to establish concussion-screening guidelines and return-to-play rules.

“The NCAA has engaged in a long-established pattern of negligence and inaction with respect to concussions and concussion-related maladies sustained by its student-athletes, all the while profiting immensely from those same student-athletes,” reads the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

The suit claims one of the plaintiffs, 25-year-old Adrian Arrington, had to drop out of Eastern Illinois University because of concussions he suffered on the football field.  Arrington, a hard-hitting strong safety, finished his career with 154 tackles as well as five concussions he blames for memory loss, seizures, depression and almost daily migraines.

“One brain injury is bad, two is worse and three is worse still,” said Dr. Steven Flanagan, professor of rehabilitation medicine and chairman of NYU Langone Medical Center’s Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine.  “In sports, these chronic blows to the head add up.  It’s a bigger problem, I think, than people realize.”

Because college athletes aren’t compensated the same way as professional athletes, the suit seeks cash to cover medical bills and financial losses for Arrington, as well as former football players Derek Owens and Mark Turner, and former soccer player Angela Palacios.  It follows a similar suit filed in July by 75 former National Football League players.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1.7 million people sustain traumatic brain injuries each year.  Three-quarters of those injuries are considered “mild,” as concussions.  But concussions are brain injuries, nonetheless.

“When we talk about concussion and mild traumatic brain injury, the ‘mild’ only refers to someone being very unlikely to die,” said Flanagan.  “But the consequences can be much more severe, with chronic problems -- physical, emotional and cognitive issues.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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