Attorneys for former Portland Timbers soccer player Eddie Johnson have filed an amended negligence lawsuit this winter that omits the Timbers and concentrates primarily on the medical team.
Johnson retired from the Timbers in 2012 after suffering multiple concussions. Two years later, he filed a $9.9 million lawsuit against the team and its doctors, claiming they were negligent because they allowed him to return to practice too soon after suffering a concussion.
While the Timbers are no longer a defendant, Johnson’s amended complaint still lists Nik Wald, the team’s director of sports medicine and head athletic trainer, as well as Oregon Sports Medicine Associates, P.C., Providence Health & Services, and Jonathan E. GreenLeaf, M.D. as defendants.
“Johnson describes a simple set of facts, which begins with his August 3, 2011 concussion during pre-game warm-ups,” wrote Molly Ryan of Goldberg Segalla. “Then on August 14, 2011 he sustained another concussion during a game. This second concussion was a season-ender as the defendants determined that Johnson could not safely return to play for the remainder of the season. The defendants allegedly allowed him to return for the MLS 2012 pre-season despite that he was still experiencing concussion symptoms. They allegedly failed to properly evaluate or monitor him before letting him return, and they did not give him the return to play protocol.”
He then allegedly suffered another head injury “from either heading the ball or other physical exertion, resulting in the premature end of his professional soccer career. He claims that he suffers from headaches, memory impairment, cognitive deficits, balance problems, blurry vision, dizziness, anxiety, and depression.”
Ryan added that much of Johnson’s claim centers on the MLS’ concussion protocol, which the league unveiled prior to the start of the 2011 season. “The protocol mandates that any player with a suspected concussion has to be removed from play immediately and evaluated by the team’s medical staff. Every team has a designated consulting neuropsychologist. Once a player is symptom free both physically and cognitively, the player is evaluated using neuropsychological testing to ensure that the player is in fact cognitively fine. If the player passes the tests, the player can begin low-level aerobic activity and gradually build up his exertion. The system is set up to avoid the problem of players hiding their symptoms or faking their way through cognitive tests.”
From the start, the Timbers organization has maintained that it has done everything by the book.
“While we cannot comment publicly on any specific active legal proceeding, we can definitively state that the Portland Timbers follow all MLS player health-related protocol and have done so since we joined the league,” according to a press release. “Additionally, we approach head injuries with extra caution and err on the side of conservatism above and beyond the official protocol when dealing with them. We have an expert staff of physicians and trainers and we stand by them and their evaluations.”