Turner acknowledged he was aware of the risks of playing in the NFL. "I was certainly aware of the trade-offs, that I might end up with a bad back or arthritic knees for playing the game I loved," Turner told reporters Thursday. "But not for one moment can I say I ever thought I would be dealing with something like ALS."
A disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, ALS has no known cure and eventually causes muscles to stop functioning. It has taken a devastating toll on Turner, a man of good humor who cannot get dressed or feed himself without assistance, he said Thursday.
Turner, nicknamed "The Anvil" for his battering-ram style of play, set up a foundation to raise awareness of ALS, head trauma and spinal-cord injuries.
The lawsuit filed yesterday consolidates for pretrial purposes at least 80 cases in federal court here that have been filed in other federal courts by more than 2,000 former players and their families. The suit accuses the NFL of "deliberately and fraudulently concealing from its players the link between football- related head impacts and longstanding neurological injuries."
The suit said the league had turned a "blind eye" to player risks and did not do enough to inform them about the dangers of head injuries.
The NFL said in a statement in response to the suit that it had long made player safety a priority and any allegation it misled players was without merit.
The league offers a menu of medical-benefit programs to former NFL players, including the "88 Plan,'' which provides funds to treat dementia, Alzheimer's disease and ALS.
But Turner questioned the adequacy of the plan, saying that for every dollar in benefits a player receives from the 88 Plan it is offset by one dollar less in disability benefits. “That doesn't make any sense at all," he said, adding, "I don't know anybody with ALS can hold a job after 2 years with this."
Contact Michael Hinkelman at 215-854-2656 or hinkelm@phillynews.