After years of litigation, the case of Michael Rose and Timothy Stratton v. the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference continues to drag its way forward.
On Feb. 23, 2017, former Boilermaker linebacker Michael Rose and former All-Big Ten tight end Timothy Stratton filed a lawsuit against the NCAA and Big Ten for damages over the lack of action to address concussion protocol during their time at Purdue.
Rose and Stratton, who each played at Purdue between 1996 and 2001, accuse the NCAA and the Big Ten of failing to properly educate coaches, trainers and student-athletes of the dangers of sports-related collisions.
The plaintiffs are currently seeking approval for class certification, for damages on six counts for not only themselves but for every player who participated in Purdue’s football program from 1952 to 2010.
Class certification can be justified by meeting certain guidelines. The defendant’s conduct has to have broken the law, the settlement funds must be approved and allocated properly or the plaintiffs must seek declaratory relief.
According to H.org, a legal resource website, if the plaintiffs obtain certification, “It will ensure that there is more opportunity for litigation, as well as ensuring that their case will be examined more efficiently, and reduce the cost of representation making the likelihood of financial recovery skyrocket.”
The plaintiffs opened their case saying, “Nearly 100,000 student-athletes sign up to compete in college football each year. During the course of a season, players receive more than 1,000 impacts greater than 10g’s (units of gravitational force). The majority of football hits to the head exceed 20g’s. If you were driving a car at twenty-five miles per hour, without a seatbelt, and you crash your car while hitting your head on the windshield, that force would register at about 100g’s.”
Studies about traumatic brain injuries or TBI began in the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until April 2010 that the NCAA had implemented a concussion management plan.
Both plaintiffs received multiple concussions while attending Purdue, and suffer from symptoms of TBI today. They argue that the defendants were in a superior position to know the risks and failed to report the dangers of short and long-term health risks associated with TBI during their time at Purdue.
Rose was best known for his physical style of play while at Purdue. During an interview, he spoke of a memory where he recalled participating in a practice drill where he, “busted his chinstrap, lost his helmet, and ran into a teammate’s face mask busting his nose.”
As a result of his playstyle, Rose says he suffers from TBI symptoms today. As stated by the initial filing, Rose suffers from memory loss, depression, ringing in his ears and uncontrollable changes in mood. Stratton struggles with migraines, memory loss, depression, anxiety and anger.
He and Stratton said that if the defendants had disclosed the overwhelming amount of medical evidence in their possession, they would have been able to make an informed decision about the consequences of the way they played the game.
The plaintiffs also point out that Article 2.2 of the NCAA Constitution, which states the NCAA has a responsibility to provide detailed instructions on player well-being and safety, was not revised until 2005, long after their college careers were over.
The defendants counter that the plaintiffs knew the risk of their decision and “knew what they signed up for.” The defendants also mention a signed policy document in which the plaintiffs accepted responsibility for reporting their injuries and illnesses to medical staff.
The most recent concrete action came on Sept. 28, 2018. The District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted a motion to dismiss the charges of breach of implied contract, breach of express contract and unjust enrichment. Count one for negligence, count two for fraudulent concealment and count three for breach of express contract are all still being litigated at this time.