Brain Damaged H.S. Football Player Sues Helmet Maker [Video]
In 2009, Eddie Acuna was a regular high school kid in Pomona, Calif., playing football in his team’s homecoming game when an on-field collision changed his life.
Although he was wearing a regulation football helmet, Edward, now 21, suffered a catastrophic brain injury. Now, he’s mentally and physically disabled — for life. Expressing simple thoughts about his favorite sports is now a struggle.
“Football, tennis, volleyball, baseball,” Edward brokenly says in a Lawyers.com interview.
When asked why do you like football so much, he responds in a semi-coherent manner, with a smile, “I love football.”
Sitting by her son, Edward’s mother, Teresa Acuna says, “I hope one day he can become independent. Because right now he’s a large child whom I must care for, like a child.”
Ilyas Akbari is the Los Angeles lawyer representing Acuna in a case his family brought against the manufacturer of the football helmet, Riddell.
“Catastrophic brain injuries are things that these helmets are supposed to protect. The technology has been around for at least 20 years,” says Akbari. “Nowadays, helmets are very good at preventing skull fractures, but they’re not very good at reducing concussions or reducing the incidents of bridging vein tears.”
Akbari says Acuna’s helmet is responsible for the vein rupture that happened after a routine hit to the front of his helmet. Akbari says the front padding on Acuna’s helmet failed under hot game-time conditions, a problem that he says Riddell has known about for years.
“When kids are running around wearing this helmet in the heat, and it’s heating up, it loses all of its protection. And that’s when you get these injuries,” says Akbari
A spokesman for Riddell, the official supplier of helmets to the NFL, declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit. But on its home page, Riddell says player safety is a priority.
The website says, “We are committed to designing and manufacturing the most protective helmets for all football players based on the most credible scientific research available.”
In September 2013, four former NFL players sued the league and Riddell, claiming that both knew about the risks of brain injuries that could happen while wearing the company’s helmets, but never told the players.
For Edward Acuna’s parents, the goal of challenging Riddell in court is to educate other parents about the risks of helmet-related injuries.
“The main thing is to let the public know that this equipment that they’re using is unsafe. If we would have known, you know, back then, I would have never let him, you know, play football,” says Luis Acuna, Edward’s father.
“The only way we’re going to prevent this from happening to other kids is if we change the design. And you can’t really get these corporations to change their designs, unfortunately, without lawsuits,” says Akbari.
Edward Acuna’s case is scheduled to begin in Los Angeles Superior Court on Nov. 6.