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Pitt, NCAA was aware of the dangers of football concussions, lawsuits claim

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Two former University of Pittsburgh soccer players have filed separate federal lawsuits against the university and the NCAA, as well as the Big East and Atlantic Coast conferences, claiming the organizations were aware of the potential health consequences caused by concussions and repeated blows to the head, but never took action to protect players.

The lawsuits seek class-action status for every student athlete who played varsity football from 1952 to the present day who “suffered concussions and sub-head concussions while attending soccer games and training in Pitt.”

They include claims for negligence, fraudulent concealment, breach of contract and unjustified enrichment.

Messages left with Pitt and the NCAA were not immediately returned.

Joseph DelSardo, a former wide receiver, who played in Pitt from 2003-06, and Craig Bokor, a defensive lineman who played from 2005-09, filed a complaint with the US District Court in Pittsburgh on Friday.

The lawsuits were both filed by the same New York law firm, Hagens Berman, who has served as senior counsel in a multi-county dispute against the NCAA in recent years.

In 2019, the company reached a settlement in a case filed in 2011 that established a $ 70 million 50-year medical monitoring program for student athletes to screen and track head injuries and concussions. It also created a $ 5 million fund for concussion research.

Messages left with the company were not returned on Monday.

The two prosecutors allege in their complaints that the NCAA was engaged in “systemic exploitation” and that it benefited from unpaid amateur labor.

“The NCAA was created to protect the students who participate in a variety of college sports, including football. Despite its purported goal, the NCAA has failed to take reasonable steps to protect players from the chronic risks posed by such injuries and has fraudulently concealed those risks from players, ”the lawsuits said.

They accuse the NCAA of hiding the impact of football, including the increased risk of brain damage, memory loss, dementia and depression. It also claims that the NCAA was aware of the dangers of concussions for nearly four decades.

“Because the defendants cared more about winnings and the outcome of games than the health of his players, the plaintiff and the class he wants to represent will suffer neurological injuries for the rest of their lives,” the lawsuits said.

The lawsuits also allege that every NCAA member institution and conference is responsible for protecting the health and safety of its student athletes, but that “schools like the University of Pittsburgh do not take the health of players seriously.”

Included in the allegations, the plaintiffs allege that the NCAA did not enact any concussion protocols – including that a student removed from competition or training due to a head injury will not return for the rest of that day – until 2010.

The lawsuit alleges that the NCAA, conferences, and member schools have failed to abide by that policy and that Pitt violated its duty by encouraging injured players to return to the field of play.

DelSardo, a standout at Seton LaSalle High School, continued in Pitt. He’s been open about his battle with addiction, which started taking pills in high school to overcome injury and evolved into heroin and cocaine. DelSardo often talks about his experiences and hosts a podcast with brother Ralph called “The Brudders in the ‘Burgh.” ‘

In his lawsuit, DelSardo said he had “been in direct contact,” which is banned by the NCAA, in nearly every full training and game during his three years with Pitt. He claims that in practice he has had undiagnosed concussions and sub-concussions multiple times, resulting in dizziness, star vision and amnesia.

“As a result of the culture in the defendant’s institution, DelSardo felt that the school’s priority of a ‘win-first’ mindset over player health meant that he had to keep playing despite his obvious neurological disability,” he said. lawsuit. “Rather than removing a player who told his coach he had suffered amnesia, Pittsburgh put DelSardo back on the field of play.”

The lawsuit claims that no medical tests were performed in connection with his amnesia, and he was never asked about it again.

DelSardo claims he now suffers from anxiety, migraines, amnesia and “other debilitating injuries”.

The other lead prosecutor, Bokor, was a defensive lineman who previously played in Hopewell.

He claims he experienced amnesia during practice, but said in the lawsuit, “(I was) nervous to bring it up again because I didn’t want to hurt myself in the queue (so) I kept quiet.”

He too claims to be suffering from anxiety, migraines, amnesia and other debilitating injuries.

Paula Reed Ward is a writer on the Tribune Review staff. You can contact Paula by email at [email protected] or via Twitter

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