The family of Junior Seau, the star linebacker who shot and killed himself last year, sued the NFL, the helmet maker Riddell, and others Wednesday, accusing them of hiding information about the link between head hits and long-term cognitive issues.
The family said the league not only ‘‘propagated the false myth that collisions of all kinds, including brutal and ferocious collisions, many of which lead to short-term and long-term neurological damage to players, are an acceptable, desired and natural consequence of the game’’ but that ‘‘the NFL failed to disseminate to then-current and former NFL players health information it possessed’’ about the risks associated with brain trauma.
Seau’s family, which filed its case in state court in San Diego, seeks an unspecified amount of damages.
Seau was 43 when he shot himself in the chest at his home in California in May. He played 20 seasons in the NFL with the Chargers, Dolphins, and Patriots.
This month the National Institutes of Health said that tissue samples from Seau’s brain showed that he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head hits and brain trauma.
‘‘We were saddened to learn that Junior, a loving father and teammate, suffered from CTE,’’ Seau’s family said in a statement after its complaint was filed. ‘‘We know this lawsuit will not bring back Junior. But it will send a message that the NFL needs to care for its former players, acknowledge its decades of deception on the issue of head injuries and player safety, and make the game safer for future generations.’’
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league’s lawyers would ‘‘respond to the claims appropriately through the court.’’
The NFL often has asked courts to move these cases to federal court in Philadelphia, where similar complaints have been consolidated.
More than 4,000 retired NFL players and their families, including Ray Easterling and Dave Duerson, who also committed suicide, have similar cases pending there.
The NFL has asked that the cases be dismissed, arguing that the league’s collective bargaining agreement with its players covers these issues.