Soccer Player Sues DC United for Career-Ending Concussion

Former MLS player Bryan Namoff (Photo: Doug Smith)

Major League Soccer star Bryan Namoff is not taking his concussion lying down. The former DC United midfielder is suing his former team and coach Tom Soehn for $12 million, saying they failed to properly diagnose and treat him after a career-ending head injury three years ago.

Namoff, 33, was injured in a mid-air collision during a game at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC against the Kansas City Wizards in September 2009. He was not treated for his injury and played for the rest of the game; the team cleared him to play subsequent games, but he suffered from worsening headaches, sleeplessness and fatigue and was forced to retire in 2010.

United was “negligent in its management, care and treatment” of Namoff, his complaint, filed in District of Columbia Superior Court on August 29, alleges. The player complained about vision problems after the game, but nobody on the team paid any attention, according to a report about his complaint.

His wife Nadine is also a plaintiff; the couple is seeking $10 million for negligence and another $2 million for damage to their marriage. They have incurred medical costs and Namoff, who has daily migraines, vertigo, nausea and dizzy spells, and joint and ligament problems, has not been able to work since retiring.

Namoff will add the team’s athletic trainer, the former team doctor and the doctor’s practice as defendants as well, according to one report. An initial scheduling hearing will be held by the court on November 30.

 

MLS Starts Using Its Head

Namoff’s was the third career-ending concussion in two years in MLS, which seemed to wake up after that. (New England’s Taylor Twellman retired in 2010 as well, following Los Angeles Galaxy star Alecko Eskandarian, who retired in 2009.) The league formed a concussion committee in 2010 and added to each team a neuropsychologist who specializes in treating concussions, according to ESPN.

Namoff is smart to add the team doctor to his suit – seeing as how it’s about medical negligence – but it might be too late. Under new MLS policy instituted after Namoff retired, “a player suspected of having a concussion in a game or practice must be removed immediately and evaluated,” according to ESPN, which reported on a league symposium in January led by MLS head head-doctor Ruben J. Echemendia, a clinical neuropsychologist.

“Team physicians are the ultimate authority,” learned ESPN. “Players must pass cognitive tests and be symptom-free before returning to the field, which could take days or months. The team doctor and team neuropsychologist must OK the return to competition.”

 

Head Injuries Still Grabbing Headlines

The MLS actually ranks fifth in concussions, according to ESPN’s coverage of Echemendia’s presentation to the symposium. The NFL has grabbed its share of headlines lately, with the latest big news coming in June, when 80 cases filed by 2,000 former football players against the league were consolidated into a class action in federal court in Philadelphia.

The NFL players want a “court supervised fund to provide medical monitoring . . . due to their increased risk of latent brain injuries caused by repeated traumatic head impacts received during the period when they played professional football,” according to the complaint. The players claim the NFL hid the risks of concussions from them.

They – and Namoff – may have a difficult time winning their cases, which can be barred by the legal defense of “assumption of risk.” That doctrine holds that if you voluntarily and knowingly take on the risks of an inherently dangerous activity, you can’t sue for your injuries.

Do you think professional athletes should be able to sue their teams for their injuries? Share your opinion below.

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