Jim McMahon says NFL lied to players about brain injuries

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Former NFL quarterback Jim McMahon is one of the most famous among the hundreds of former players suing the NFL over brain injuries they say the suffered on the football field. And he says his anger over the issue comes from what he sees as the NFL concealing information about concussions.

“We knew what was going on with pretty much every other part of the body,” McMahon said on ESPN’s Outside the Lines. “We knew there was going to be a chance for injury. But we didn’t know about the head trauma. And they did, and that’s the whole reason for this lawsuit. . . . They knew about it and they didn’t tell us. That’s like looking in your face and lying to you. Flat-out lying.”

The NFL says player safety has always been a top priority and denies that the league ever lied or failed to disclose information about brain injuries. But McMahon says the league never cared about concussions and that trainers weren’t helpful if players suffered brain injuries. ESPN pointed to a Chicago Tribune article during McMahon’s time in Chicago in which a Bears trainer was quoted as saying that McMahon had suffered a concussion in the first half of a game against the Lions, but “it cleared by halftime.”

“That’s a typical response, ‘It cleared by halftime,'” McMahon said. “You got a headache? Here’s an aspirin.”

McMahon now says his brain doesn’t work well.

“Short term memory is not good,” McMahon said. “I won’t remember a hell of a lot about this interview in 10 minutes.”

McMahon says he’s doing fine financially and that his lawsuit isn’t about money. What it is about is forcing the NFL to take brain injuries more seriously which, McMahon hopes, will result in the next generation of players being healthier in retirement than he is.

45 responses to “Jim McMahon says NFL lied to players about brain injuries

  1. If there’s proof the NFL was actually concealing things they had knowledge of that’s one thing. If there simply wasn’t enough information out there on the effects that’s another thing. I suspect it was more the latter than the former, but if it isn’t I understand their anger.

    That said, if you asked all these guys before they were in the NFL if they would be ok with three concussions and memory loss forever to make a ton of money or if they would rather use their degree to get a job and not have any concussions, I don’t think it would be close on which option they would choose. McMahon has a nice home, car(s) etc and he is saying he’s not in it for money so here’s hoping he proves that by accepting only reimbursement for any expenses he incurred in the suit and no damage money.

  2. Of course the NFL was lying about brain injuries. They were doing so as recently as a few years ago when their hired commission on brain injuries were the only “experts” in the world that still denied that there was a causal link between brain injuries and long-term neurological health. As recently as 2009, the NFL was saying more study was needed to establish any connection between concussions and early onset dementia or other memory problems.

    The research was there over a decade ago, the NFL just stuck their fingers in their ears and cried “la la la la la la la la…” as long as they could. More research is required to understand exactly how bad concussions are for long-term health, more research has not been needed for a long time to know that there is a definite link and that repeated concussions were a very bad thing.

  3. This guy was a whacko when he was supposed to be healthy. He has always been a trouble maker. Who does he think is going to pay them the money? Todays owners…give me a break.

  4. You know, I do feel for the players, but really? This is like the Tobacco companies kept secrets of lung cancer from society. I’m sorry, but I have a brain too. My brain tells me that ingesting 1000 degree smoke/fire into your body is probably not good for your lungs. Just like letting a 300lbs DL run at you full speed and laying you out won’t cause some type of brain injury.

    It’s sad this had to come to this, but both parties knew better.

  5. 🙂 none of them even knew that football was a dangerous sport when they all signed on or let me guess 10 minutes after their careers ended they all forgot how brutal the game can become.

    I bet all still remember the day the Lawyer called and said Money Money Money.

    The thing is even if there was mass studies then and these people had to sign a waiver I bet everyone would have signed it in a heartbeat instead of slinging groceries or working in a steel mill the rest of there life.

  6. If Jim is right that they knew and withheld the information, then I agree with their lawsuit, although who exactly to sue is not clear.

    It’s not like the League issued an edict instructing the teams to lie to the players.

  7. “McMahon now says his brain doesn’t work well.” ……I don’t think Jimbo’s brain ever did work very well from birth, I wonder if he’s suing his parents also? Athletes sit out 2 weeks with a hangnail but yet they don’t know anything about head trauma……yea right Jimbo!

  8. McMahon now says his brain doesn’t work well.

    After watching McMahon for many years I doubt his brain ever “worked well”.

  9. NFL did know,and kept quiet,but the players had to know they had major problems while they were playing beyond the scope of whatever the doctors told them.jim mcmahon is one of the biggest jerks in pro football’s history,and he was a drunk before he ever came into the league.he’s thrown all his money away and is in desperate need of another paycheck.he deserves a settlement with the league,but he should’nt be entitiled any more than other players like conrad dobler and the late john mackey got in my view,they were’nt drunks when they came into the league like he was and still is!

  10. The question is whether the NFL stole your common sense. I was under the impression that the legal system was built around the idea of the “reasonable man(person)” and slamming into another human being would naturally be ASSUMED to be potentially physically harmful. I’m not saying the NFL doesn’t share culpability, but the former players have absolutely no right to act like they were blind sided. If anything, shame on them for taking those hits and not naturally realizing there could be issues in the future, then finding out what lasting effects they might have. The players sound like the vast-majority of society, afraid to take responsibility for their own actions and believing that anything that has gone wrong is someone else’s fault.

  11. To everyone who’s upset at Goodell for ruining the league by making it safe: THAT’S one reason why he’s doing it. He’s doing something Paul Tagliabue (one of many reason why he’s not in the hall of fame) and Pete Rozelle ignored during their tenures.

  12. I’d like to see everyone put their personal feelings aside before they make silly, insulting remarks toward McMahon. Sure he was a nut case, but this is a serious problem. I highly recommend watching the OTL report, it is very good.

    I don’t see any humor in making jokes on this subject.

  13. I played at the NFL level for a number of years. I knew McMahon and he was no different than me or anyone else when it came to getting back on the field even though we were experiencing aches & pains. We knew the risks involved. I refuse to play the victim. We’ve got a whole society of people playing that role! Be accountable for your own actions!!

  14. The guy that jabbed a fork in his eye when he was younger is the same guy complaining about brain injuries/deficiencies? Fork companies lied to him about the effects a sharp object getting jabbed into the eye can cause.

  15. I’m a Bears fan, and this lawsuit strikes me as odd because McMahon headbutted teammates after every good play. Talk about unnecessarily causing head trauma.

    Alcohol doesn’t kill brain cells I guess either – just ask Mr DUI. 😉

  16. Rule #1: It is ALWAYS about the money.

    Rule #2: Even when they say it is not about the money, it is about the money.

    So what about the head trauma in Pee Wee football? In middle school football? In high school and college football? In practice? What about all the doctors?

    Why is the NFL the only one culpable?

  17. Never have fans, before or since, turned on an NFL Champion. Chicago fans COULD NOT WAIT for Flutie or Tomzac or Harbaugh. And all you got was the ring McMahon won.

    Who started the anti-McMahon backlash? Dan Hampton, that’s who.

  18. Jim, if it’s not about the money then if you win how about donating your share to an agency that specializes in head injuries. Yea, I didn’t think so.
    Funny, how for the most part you never hear about Race Car Drivers or their Families that are seriously injured or killed in their line of work never sue anybody. They know the risks and pursue their dream and career anyways. How in the world can a grown human being not know that being hit in the head by another enormous grown human being can be and is hazardous to your health.

  19. jharmon64

    I do see it as funny, but also a bit sad. They had no idea slamming into each other at full speed, when the athletes’ measurements of strength makes the rest of society look like emaciated ethiopians, would possible cause long-term damage? Your telling me, while they were getting paid very well, to play a game, they had no plausible reason to think that if you could break the largest/thickest bones in your body, you might just sustain brain injuries? No body forced them into those situations, they volunteered. Society owes them nothing, they didn’t fight or die so the rest of us could survive, they aren’t heroes. The saddest part of the story is not how delusional and child like these guys are acting, its how flaming, cry baby, excuse making, empowerers like yourself make it so easy for the players to blame someone else for their problems. The other sad part of this, it’s that same thinking that is going to sink the NFL and make others sports, who are already full a weenies(except the NHL), into a bigger joke then they are now.

  20. “I knew McMahon and he was no different than me or anyone else when it came to getting back on the field even though we were experiencing aches & pains….Be accountable for your own actions!!”

    I agree. Start by providing your real name. If you’re gonna slam Jim and talk about accountability, you’re nothing but a hypocrite if you won’t state who you are. I can claim I played with Jim and saw him beg to not go back on the field because he was dizzy and sick to his stomach and they told him he would be cut if didn’t. Of course, that’s a lie. I never played a down with McMahon. But if I didn’t admit it was a lie, my story would be just as impossible to prove as your’s is. Unless, of course, you tell us who you are. That’s what accountability demands.

  21. This is a difficult issue because in the heat of a game a player doesn’t give a damn about the long term consequences of any injury. Players depend upon management to protect them from themselves. If a doctor on the sideline believes there is a chance a player has been injured and is susceptible to serious long term injury if he goes back into the game, the decision is not left up to the player. There is no decision for the player and 99.5% of the time the player will opt to go back in the game. Such is the immediacy and competitive nature of the game. That is why it can be so dangerous and it is why everyone on this post is so passionate about football.

  22. What did medical science even know about long term affects of concussions back in the 80s?

  23. It should be obvious that in a contact sport like football you’re going to suffer head injuries. The problem seems to be regarding what happened once they sustained the injuries. To tell someone a concussion has cleared by halftime is an outright lie. While they might not be feeling the effects of it, they are still at risk of aggravating the injury. If your doctor is telling you to do something, likely you won’t question it. If what he is saying is true about the NFL sending players back into the game with concussions then they deserve to be sued. The only way businesses will change their rules/laws/practices is when their former rules/laws/practices become a legal liability.

  24. 85 Bears BEST team of all time. Jimmy Mac, thank you! Yeah he was a ‘character’ but he was a competitor too!

  25. What did medical science WANT to know. This concussion issue will ultimately write Pete Rozelle’s legacy. “Tan-Man” is what they called him.

  26. Having been an adult at the time that Jim played, I can tell you what “everybody knew”. We knew that fighters who got hit in the head too many times suffered from a variety of neurological disorders, including memory loss. McMahon deliberately smashed his head against his teammates helmets several times every game; to celebrate plays. At the time, commentators would often remark that such behavior seemed foolishly risky. If they need a poster boy for head injuries, this guy is the wrong one. Find someone who did not choose to expose himself to head injury.

  27. Suing the NFL …because “we didn’t know about the long term affects of concussions” is ludicrous!They are all, in it for the money, because…. even if the NFL would have sat them down and told them, before they first stepped out on thefootball field, and had them sign an affidavit to that fact…every one of them would have ignored the warning & gone out to play NFL football for the fame, glory & money !.. Nothing could ever convince me that they would have NOT played football and joined the rest of the job hunters in the real job market ! I rest my case…

  28. wtfchiefs says:
    Mar 18, 2012 1:29 PM
    What did medical science even know about long term affects of concussions back in the 80s?


    Ding Ding Ding we have a winner…..a great deal of things have come about in the last 25 years based on research-cell phones, the internet, etc-there is also a better understanding of things such as concussions.

    What he was told 25-30 years ago may have been incorrect based on recent findings, but does that mean he was lied to? My definition of a lie is misleading someone in a deliberate manner. If I for example read in a textbook today that 1+1=2 and I tell people this for the next 30 years until someone shows that 1+1=3, then have I lied to everyone? Not by my definition-it just means that I would be telling lies if I continued to say 1+1=2

  29. Jim McMahon was a head case and probably still is a head case. I doubt if a concussion would make much difference.

  30. To ‘steelerdynasty2010’ – Obviously you are suffering from the same thing because you already forgot that he said he was suffering from SHORT-TERM memory loss. That is why he would forget most of the interview 10 minutes later but be able to remember what happened 25+ years ago. That is what Alzheimers and Dimentia does – it starts with short-term memory loss. You can remember things from many years ago as if it were yesterday. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that getting hit in the head over and over cannot be good for you, however, to the extent that this is taking a toll on these players is very, very sad and if the NFL withheld the information about just how serious this problem was then they should be sued for every dime they have and perhaps re-think football as a sport altogether. I am a big fan of football, but there is a serious problem here and when you have teams like the Saints handing out money for head injuries, etc. it is time to re-evaluate what is going on with this sport.

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