Three former UCLA offensive linemen are suing the school alleging that mistreatment of concussions and other injuries only made their situations worse.
In their suits filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, John Lopez, Poasi Moala and Zach Bateman contend that former coach Jim Mora and trainers shamed or coerced athletes into continuing to play without proper treatment after they suffered traumatic head or foot injuries. Lopez and Moala allege that they have symptoms linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy as a result of concussions. Bateman alleges that he was compelled to play before his serious foot injuries had healed.
They name UCLA regents, Mora, offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, associate trainer Anthony Venute and the NCAA, and each seek $15 million in compensation, according to SI.com, citing a Los Angeles Times report.
"What they all have in common is the pattern of brutality and intentional disregard for player health and safety by coach Mora and his staff at UCLA," said attorney Pamela Tahim Thakur, who is representing all three players.
Lopez's suit contends that he was rushed into returning to play after suffering concussions in 2013 and 2014 during training camp and that he was ridiculed after his first injury. His suit alleges that Mora cultivated a culture of "no excuses" that included "unnecessarily brutal" head-to-head contact during drills and an expectation that the athletes would play through pain.
Lopez suffered a third concussion in 2015 and was forced to retire. Lopez claims his injuries left him with short-term memory loss, depression and anxiety, and kept him from finishing school. He also says he attempted suicide in 2016.
"We strongly deny and will defend ourselves against the allegations made in the lawsuit," said a statement from UCLA’s athletic department. "We handle every injury with the highest standard of care, and take potential head injuries very seriously."
The school believes its concussion protocol "is among the strongest in the country" and that decisions allowing players who have suffered concussions to return to play are made solely by the medical staff without input from coaches, the statement said.