On March 18, 2019, former Northwestern University football player, Jay Tant, filed a proposed concussion class action lawsuit against the NCAA. In the class action suit, Tant alleged that the NCAA failed to protect the school’s players from the dangers of concussion and head injuries despite knowing the risks. According to Tant, the NCAA knew, since 1933, of the dangers of concussions and the long-term risks they posed to student-athletes however, the NCAA only began to implement concussion protocols in 2010.
Tant, a standout tight end at Northwestern, played college football from 1996 to 1999 and played one season in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals.
In the lawsuit, Tant compared playing NCAA college football to a twenty-five mile an hour car accident. According to Tant, “athletes absorb more than 1,000 impacts greater than 10 Gs (gravitational force) and, worse yet, the majority of football-related hits to the head exceed 20 Gs, with some approaching 100 Gs … if you drove your car into a wall at twenty-five miles per hour and weren’t wearing a seatbelt, the force of you hitting the windshield would be around 100 Gs.” The result of these hits, according to Tant, is that over time, “the repetitive and violent impacts [lead] to repeated concussions that severely increased [student-athletes] risks of long-term brain injuries, including memory loss, dementia, depression, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), Parkinson’s disease, and other related symptoms.”
Tant alleges that the NCAA had had duty to protect Northwestern student-athletes, because it “play[ed] a significant role in governing and regulating the Northwestern football program.” Further, decades of studies “firmly establish[ed]” the dangers of football-related concussions. The NCAA breached its duties by ignoring the dangers of concussions and failing to implement adequate concussion management protocols.
Tant’s lawsuit is but one in a string of lawsuits brought by former student-athletes, suffering from brain and other neurocognitive injuries, against the NCAA.