CMDA Attorney Attends Congressional Hearing on Behalf of Retired NFL Players

CMDA’s Jim Acho was asked to appear on behalf of the NFL Alumni Association at a Congressional hearing on the prevention and treatment of concussions in the NFL on January 4, 2010.

Acho attended the hearing as the attorney representing former players, some of whom testified before Congress as witnesses, including longtime CMDA client and NFL Hall of Fame player Lem Barney, whose testimony was called “riveting” by the Associated Press. The purpose of the hearing was to determine the sufficiency of helmets worn by football players at all levels—Pop Warner, CYO, high school, college and professional—and whether the evolution of the helmet has lessened the frequency and severity of concussions and traumatic brain injuries. It was the third such hearing over the last 12 months, part of an ongong effort by Congress to place pressure on both the NFL and NFL Players Association to ensure former NFL players with medical problems are not left uncovered. It is also part of Congress’ attempt to force on the NCAA and NFL rule changes that provide greater protection for players.  For instance, in 2009, a new rule forbidding the “horse collar” tackle was instituted in both college and professional leagues.

“The equipment that we played with was much more insufficient than they have today,” explained Lem Barney, showing reporters two of his seven Pro Bowl helmets. “Ballplayers are becoming bigger, stronger and faster. The game is much quicker and much rougher, and the hits are more intense. Even with the modernization with the helmets, I think we’re still going to have a lot of concussions.

The hearing was run by the House Judiciary Committee and chaired by John Conyers (D-Michigan).  The hearing, held at WayneStateUniversityMedicalSchool, was broadcast in part on C-SPAN and ESPN.  The day included testimony from numerous doctors, NFL representatives, NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, and the presidents and CEOs of companies such as Riddell, the longtime manufacturer and distributor of NFL football helmets, pads and related equipment.

Prior to the hearing, Acho and Barney discussed with reporters the newly instituted “88 Plan,” named in honor of NFL Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey, who suffers from a traumatic brain disorder. The plan covers nursing home and adult day care for former players with traumatic brain injuries or dementia. Since its inception early last year, 35 players have qualified for coverage under the plan.

CMDA has long been and remains committed to the welfare of retired professional athletes, both locally and nationally. Please see our CMDA Happenings section on page 3 for an article on Mr. Barney’s recent induction into the Detroit Lions’ newly-created Pride of the Lions.

If you would like to view text of the testimony, a partial transcript of the hearing can be viewed by clicking on the link below.

Click here to download text of the Congressional Hearing.