Helmet Maker Riddell Found Liable For Failure To Warn Of Concussion Risk

In 2000, a biomechanics company gave helmet manufacturer Riddell a warning: Football helmets, no matter how well they protect against skull fractures, cannot protect against concussions. Riddell, however, gave the warning little notice and claimed that its "Revolution" football helmet would reduce the risk of concussion injury by 31 percent.

Now, a jury in Colorado has held the company accountable for failing to warn a high school football player of the risk of concussion injury. Riddell faces multiple other lawsuits, including a lawsuit from thousands of former NFL players who suffered concussion injuries while wearing Riddell helmets.

Riddell To Pay $3.1 Million For Football Helmet Injury

In 2008, a high school football player was hit hard during a football drill, causing serious brain injuries and paralysis to the left side of his body. His coaches failed to take him to the hospital immediately after the injury.

In April 2013, a Colorado jury held that the football player, now a 22-year-old man, was entitled to $11.5 million in damages and that Riddell, who manufactured the helmet used by the football player, was responsible for 27 percent of the damages, or $3.1 million.

While the jury did not hold that Riddell's helmets were defective, it held that the company failed to warn athletes of the concussion dangers. As the plaintiff's lawyer said, "What it proves is that Riddell knew for sure in November of 2000 that they had a problem with their testing of these helmets and didn't disclose it to anybody."

What The Verdict Means For Other Injured Football Players

The verdict against Riddell sets the stage for other lawsuits against the company, including a Los Angeles Riddell lawsuit set to go to trial in May 2013. Riddell, the official helmet manufacturer for the NFL, is also a defendant in a lawsuit involving thousands of NFL players who believe they were not properly warned about the dangers of concussion injuries.

While a verdict in one case does not guarantee similar results in other cases, we can expect to see similar evidence in future cases against Riddell, including the following:

  • On the National Operating Committee for Standards on Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) safety tests, a helmet that scores 559 during an impact leaves the wearer with a 95 percent risk of concussion while one that scores 291 has a 50 percent risk. Riddell's Revolution helmet falls in the middle range, scoring between 440 and 413, depending on the degree of rotation.
  • Helmets that are considered "passing" on the NOCSAE tests still carry significant risks of concussion.
  • Riddell advertised the helmets as reducing concussion risk by 31 percent after a study in 2006 found the helmets had a "31 percent decreased relative risk," though the decreased absolute risk — a better reflection of actual risk — was only 2.3 percent.

Riddell is not the only entity facing scrutiny and lawsuits for failure to warn of concussion injuries. There is evidence that the NFL knew of the dangers of minor concussions yet actively concealed the risks from players.

In professional and high school football players, minor concussions can cause significant, lifelong injury. In fact, former NFL players between 30 and 49 years old are 19 times more likely to face memory-related diseases than the general population. And more than 43,000 high school football players report concussions every year, not to mention the tens of thousands that go unreported.

Both the NFL and Riddell have created an environment in which players feel safer than they actually are. Because players do not understand the full extent of the risks, many end up with lifelong injuries they never expected.

Speak With An Attorney About Your Football Concussion Injury

If you or your child faces a serious concussion injury and you believe you were misled about the safety of a helmet or the sport, or you believe the coaches did not act appropriately to protect against injury, contact an experienced injury attorney. It may be possible to recover compensation for your injuries while holding football companies accountable for disregarding player safety.