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Pittsburgh man sues NCAA over ALS diagnosis

A Pittsburgh man has made national headlines now that he is suing the NCAA for not warning him of the lasting effects he would develop from being repeatedly concussed while he was a football player for California University of Pennsylvania from 1999 to 2003.

The 32-year-old man from Brighton Heights graduated from North Catholic, then went on to California. Upon graduation from college, he became a Pittsburgh firefighter in 2004. Within a year of being welcomed by the Pittsburgh firehouse, the man was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. 

Upon extensive research and in light of the many recent allegations against the NFL, and now the NHL, the man and his wife became increasingly confident that the concussions he sustained as a linebacker at California have led to the neurodegenerative disease. "That was one of the hardest things," said wheelchair-ridden man, "knowing I couldn't live the life I dreamed of."

The man and his family filed a federal lawsuit this past Tuesday, formally claiming that the NCAA knew full well of the issues surrounding coming back to the game week after week, even after suffering multiple concussions.

The man recalls back to seasons where he said he was "knocked out cold," but was eventually told to shake it off and was sent back in to games. The man's attorney told reporters that it was unfortunately the way head trauma was handled just over a decade ago, coaches and team doctors assumed that if you could count the number of fingers someone was holding up or tell them what day it was, you were perfectly fine to go back into the game.  

A spokesperson for the NCAA has said that organization administrators have not yet seen the details of the lawsuit or the allegations. In a statement to reporters, the spokesperson say that these particular allegations seem to piggyback off of litigation filed from other plaintiffs making similar charges, but that she feels the allegations are being inappropriately directed at the NCAA.  

The victim and his attorney argue that their lawsuit names the NCAA specifically because, during the time when the man played collegiate football, the NCAA was the sole funder of concussion research and was also in charge of setting rules and policies for football players. Former NFL players who have been diagnosed with ALS, an incurable and often fatal disease, are today compensated to the tune of $5 million.

Although some neurologists claims that head trauma is not necessarily a precursor to ALS, the disease is proven to be caused by the death of motor neurons in the brain. Head trauma can kill motor neurons, but is not yet proved to be the primary cause of the disease.

Source: Trib Live, "Former college football player, city firefighter sues NCAA over concussions" 17 December 2013

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