LEXINGTON, Ky. — Former Kentucky football player DeMoreo Ford is suing the NCAA and SEC for mishandling concussions he suffered while at the school. However, the specific head injuries Ford is citing don’t align with what Kentucky has on record.
Ford filed a class action suit in August against the NCAA and SEC on behalf of himself and all individuals who played football at Kentucky from 1952-2010. He’s seeking personal injury compensation on the grounds that both parties failed to educate players on and protect them from concussions. State immunity laws protected the university from being named as a defendant.
Ford, who played at Kentucky from 2005-08 with 23 career receptions, recalled suffering concussions during games and practices. After the diagnosis, he was often told to return to play, according to the suit.
That allegation was backed by an account from a game against Florida in 2007.
“For instance, Ford specifically recalls suffering a concussion during a game against Florida in 2007 during the second quarter,” the filed complaint reads. “During the halftime break Ford began vomiting. Despite the concussion and the severity of Ford’s symptoms, he was put back into play after the halftime break.”
Whether or not Ford suffered a concussion during the game, Kentucky’s records don’t line up with Ford’s account.
“We have NO concussion documented on or near the date of the Florida game 2007,” Jim Madaleno, director of sports medicine, wrote in an email to Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart on Sept. 2.
The email, obtained by SEC Country, lists three documented concussions Ford suffered while at Kentucky: Aug. 2005 during fall camp, Oct. 2006 against Mississippi State and Nov. 2008 against Mississippi State.
The final concussion listed led to Ford’s retirement from football a week later.
“Diagnosed at halftime when he came into us complaining of headache from a hit,” Madaleno wrote in the email about the 2008 injury. “He was NOT allowed to return to the game.”
Madaleno was unavailable as the athletics department doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation, a Kentucky spokesperson said. An SEC spokesperson issued the same response.
But in a Sept. 16 email from University General Counsel William E. Thro to Barnhart, Thro wrote that the SEC “intends to deny these allegations and vigorously defend the lawsuit.”
Ford is one of almost 50 former players being represented by Chicago-based firm Edelson PC. Edelson specializes in class action suits, and according to partner Chris Dore, the firm is contacted every day from former players across the country. Although Ford’s case is against the NCAA and SEC, other conferences are also being named.
“This is, as our complaints allege, a systemic issue that has gone on for decades in which players were put out on the field and not provided with the safety and guidance that they should’ve been based on the knowledge that the NCAA, conferences and schools had in their possession about the danger of repeated head injuries,” Dore said.
The cases will be consolidated in a Chicago court. One judge will streamline the process since there are several overlaps and similarities in the complaints. Ford’s and the other cases are still in the early stages of litigation. Edelson is pursuing a settlement for its clients but Dore said “we’re happy to take it to trial.”
Ford was unable to be reached for comment after several attempts.