Former UCLA football captain sues NCAA and Pac-12 over concussions

Despite UCLA’s recent measures in concussion treatment, former captain Tom Sullivan is suing the NCAA and Pac-12.

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A former UCLA football captain sued the NCAA and Pac-12 Conference over concussions on Tuesday in a case that seeks to include every Bruins football player from 1959 to 2010.

Tom Sullivan, who played 35 games as a defensive back from 1979 to 1982, alleged in the class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Indiana that he sustained more than 20 concussions during his college career.

“As a result of these injuries, Sullivan now suffers from memory loss, a decline in cognitive functioning, light sensitivity, anxiety, headaches and other debilitating issues,” the complaint said.


Seventeen other concussion lawsuits against the NCAA were filed in federal court Monday and Tuesday by Chicago-based Edelson PC, the law firm representing Sullivan. Many of the complaints used language similar to that in his case.

In a statement, Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief legal officer, called the lawsuits “mere copycats” and “questionable class actions.”

“This strategy will not work,” the statement said. “The NCAA does not believe that these complaints present legitimate legal arguments and expects that they can be disposed of early by the court.”

The Pac-12 didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A UCLA spokesman declined comment.

Sullivan’s lawsuit said the NCAA and Pac-12 “actively concealed” the long-term consequences of traumatic brain injuries “to protect the very profitable business of ‘amateur’ college football.”

Though UCLA isn’t a defendant in the case, the lawsuit alleged the school didn’t provide “appropriate medical treatment” for Sullivan’s concussions and had “no adequate concussion management protocols or policies in place” through at least 2010.


“In fact, although Sullivan sustained repetitive concussive and sub-concussive hits in practices and games for their profit and promotion, the NCAA and the Pac-12 failed to adopt or implement adequate concussion management safety protocols or return to play guidelines,” the complaint said. “Accordingly, every time Sullivan suffered a concussive or sub-concussive hit, he would quickly be returned to the field of play.”

The lawsuit’s six counts include negligence and fraudulent concealment. The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Twitter: @nathanfenno