Irwin man sues NCAA, says college football contributed to his Parkinson’s

November 9, 2018

An Irwin man diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease is suing the National Collegiate Athletic Association, claiming that playing college football more than 30 years ago contributed to his illness.

Joel Jarosz was an offensive lineman for Slippery Rock University from 1976-78. He sustained repeated blows to the head during practices and in games, he claims in a lawsuit filed in Westmoreland County.

Jarosz claims the NCAA knew for years prior to his playing days that football-related concussions put individuals at risk for serious long-term cognitive health issues.

“The NCAA failed to educate Mr. Jarosz about the long-term, life-altering risks and consequences of head injuries that can result from participation in the game of football, despite its knowledge of those risks,” stated the lawsuit, filed Friday.

In the years after his college football career, Jarosz claims he experienced numbness, twitching, muscle atrophy, fatigue, loss of mobility, slurred speech and other neurological symptoms. In 2012, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of the disease include tremors, slow movement, rigid muscles, loss of automatic movements such as blinking, speech changes and difficulty writing.

Jarosz is represented by Jason Luckasevic, the Pittsburgh lawyer who a decade ago filed the first lawsuits against the National Football League on behalf of former players who claimed repeated concussions sustained on the playing field resulted in irreversible brain damage such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

Luckasevic was part of the legal team that this year settled a similar federal lawsuit filed in Texas by the widow of a University of Texas linebacker who played between 1968-71 and died in 2015. The settlement came three days after the start the trial -- the first concussion-related case against the NCAA that was expected to be argued before a jury.

Luckasevic has filed other lawsuits against the NCAA, most recently in Allegheny, Washington and Philadelphia counties, all of which are pending.

“We’re not looking to get a sell-out settlement like was was created in the NFL cases. We’re looking for justice against the NCAA,” Luckasevic said Monday.

Luckasevic represents about 500 former players who recently settled concussion-related litigation against the NFL, a deal that is expected to pay out up to about $1 billion in awards.

In 2017, the NCAA settled a concussion-related class-action lawsuit that set aside $75 million to be used to create a concussion-monitoring program for former college athletes.

In the Jarosz lawsuit, Luckasevic contends the NCAA had known since the 1930s about the dangers of football and how it related to brain injuries.

“Years later, in 2010, the NCAA adopted a concussion management policy that delegated the concussion program to its member schools. This public relations maneuver, in the (face) of decades of knowledge coupled with inaction, was too little, too late for plaintiff,” according to the lawsuit.

The NCAA, based in Indianapolis, did not respond to a request for comment.

Jarosz seeks unspecified damages to cover previous and future medical bills and care as well as punitive damages.

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