Mike Anderson still has his old football helmet from his career at LSU, a battered reminder of his days as an All-American under legendary coach Charlie McClendon.
Another reminder of his playing days are the headaches and memory loss related to the several concussions he sustained as a standout linebacker from 1967-1970, a lawsuit filed in federal court in Baton Rouge alleges.
Anderson, owner of Mike Anderson’s Seafood, and his wife, Juanita Lockhart Anderson, are suing the NCAA and equipment manufacturer Riddell Inc., for unspecified damages to help cover the on-going medical costs that have arisen from the concussion, legal fees and medical monitoring.
Patrick Pendley, the Plaquemine attorney representing the Andersons, said Tuesday that Anderson recently began suffering from memory loss.
“It’s not a question of has he suffered it, it’s the extent of damage to his brain,” Pendley said. “It started when he was playing football and was getting these concussions.”
Mike Anderson is scheduled to undergo sophisticated testing at Pennington Biomedical Research Center to see if doctors can determine the extent of his injuries, though Pendley said he was not sure when the testing will take place.
The suit highlights several medical studies conducted over several decades that showed the link between repeated head injuries and brain damage in its arguments against the defendants.
“There’s always an element of risk anytime you have litigations, but I would be hopeful that at the appropriate time the NCAA and Riddell would step up to the plate and work out a resolution for Mike’s benefit and Mike’s family’s benefit,” Pendley said.
The senior communications manager for Riddell, Erin Griffin, said Tuesday the company does not comment on pending litigation.
Donald Remy, chief legal officer for the NCAA, said Wednesday morning in a written statement the allegations seem to be patterned after other lawsuits filed by other lawyers against the NCAA. “Just like those other complaints, we do not believe that the claims are properly directed to the NCAA.”
Remy said the organization remains committed to student athlete safety and will continue to make changes to rules and best practices to address head injuries “as science, medicine and technology identify advancements.”
In the suit filed Monday, the Andersons claim the governing body of college athletics acted negligently in failing to protect football players and hid the long-term effects of head injuries from players.
The suit also alleges the NCAA has known about the high number of concussions among football players since the 1960s, yet failed to warn its student-athletes of what concussion symptoms to look out for while continuing to reap enormous revenue from the student-athletes competing and refusing to pay their medical expenses in their post-college careers.
The couple also alleges Riddell was negligent in its design and engineering of the helmets Anderson wore during his playing days, calling the helmets “defective in design” and saying the design is one of the reasons Anderson suffered concussions during his career.
Riddell also failed to provide adequate safety materials or warns players of the dangers of frequent head injuries, the suit alleges.
Anderson, a 1967 graduate of Lee High School, was an All-American linebacker with the LSU Tigers in 1970 when the Tigers won the SEC championship.
The case has been assigned to Chief Judge Brian A. Jackson.
Mike Anderson suffered several concussions during his football career at LSU, though he cannot recall how many, and suffered frequent headaches after graduation, the suits claims.
“For decades, collegiate football players have been plagued by the devastating effects of concussions,” the suit says. “These effects manifest themselves in increasing severity over the decades following the playing years.”
Those head injuries mean the former linebacker is now at an increased risk for concussion-related injuries caused by repeated head trauma, such as forgetfulness, anxiety and dementia, the suit claims.
“The NCAA has breached its duty to protect college football players in general and (Mike Anderson) in particular (in) the face of long-standing and overwhelming evidence regarding the need to do so,” the suit says. “The NCAA has ignored this duty and profited immensely from its inaction and denial, all to the detriment of the Plaintiffs.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Wednesday, March 5, to include comments from the NCAA that were made Wednesday morning.