On Tuesday, yet another lawsuit was filed by former NFL players concerning the long-term impact of concussions and brain-related injuries. Among the four players and three of their wives who were named as plaintiffs in the suit, there was a familiar name to Vikings fans – Rich Mauti, the father of Vikings linebacker Michael Mauti.
The lawsuit was brought against the NFL and Riddell, the company that makes NFL helmets, claiming that the league and the helmet manufacturer hid information about the potential damage that could occur. An addition to Mauti, former players Jimmy Williams, Nolan Franz and Jimmy Keyes were named as plaintiffs, along with the wives of Mauti, Williams and Keyes.
The lawsuit claims that all four players have suffered from headaches, dizziness, memory loss, depression, cognitive dysfunction and medical bills related from concussions they sustained during their careers. The wives of the players were included in the suit since they will likely be the primary caregivers if their husbands' health continues to decline in future years.
As he prepared for practice Wednesday, Mauti said he didn't know that the lawsuit had been filed in a federal court in New Orleans, where his father played for the Saints and still resides and where Mauti grew up.
"We haven't talked that much about it," Mauti said. "He's had some short-term memory issues. It's not as severe as what some other players have gone through. But it all starts somewhere and my family has concerns about his short-term memory loss. If I knew more about the specifics of it, I would tell you, but I just really don't at this point other than he had talked about being part of the lawsuit. I didn't even know it had been filed until now."
Growing up a second generation NFL player, Rich Mauti knew all too well the dangers of football and tried to steer his son in another direction when other grade school kids got their first taste of football. In fact, until he put on the pads in junior high, Mauti thought his sporting future would be hitting a baseball, not ball carriers.
"My dad wouldn't let me play football until I was in the seventh grade," Mauti said. "At the time, my thought was that he didn't want me to get burned out on the game at a young age. I thought I was going to end up playing baseball, because I played that a lot when I was a kid. But once I started playing football, I knew that was the sport for me."
While the discussion concerning concussions has been ramped up in recent years as more medical research has provided a larger information base to draw from and technology advancements have been able to clearly display the damage to brains of former players, it is clear that playing football can be a dangerous occupation. But Mauti said his love of the game is what drives him and players of his era have much more information and precautions to prevent the kind of multiple-concussion repercussions that have plagued players of yesteryear.
"The best thing we have going now is that there is a recognition of what head injuries can do in the short term and long term," Mauti said. "This is a violent game and there are big hits that cause injuries. I think that we have a better understanding now of the impact that concussions can have on the lives of players and steps are being taken to make things safer."
Even with his father suffering from some of the ill-effects of his love of the game, Mauti wouldn't change his career path for anything. In later life, his knees will be a constant reminder of his commitment to playing football and he wouldn't have it any other way.
"The bottom line is that everyone who is playing in the NFL is doing so because he loves the game," Mauti said. "You have to make those kinds of decisions for yourself whether you want to play the game. I think players of today know the risks that are involved. There are risks at every level of the game, but if you have a passion for the game, you want to play. I couldn't imagine not playing football."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Despite dad's memory loss, Mauti presses on
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