A Wisconsin mother filed a $5-million lawsuit against the Pop Warner youth football organization on Thursday, blaming it for her son's suicide after years of playing the "combat sport."
The suit comes amid scrutiny and continuing litigation over the effects of repeated blows to the head in American football, and the potential for such injuries to contribute to depression and other mental health problems among players.
Debra Pyka filed the complaint against Pop Warner Little Scholars and its liability insurer in a federal Wisconsin court. Pyka said her son, Joseph Chernach, hanged himself at the age of 25, after developing brain diseases from playing in the league as a youth.
"Tackle football with helmets is a war game. It is not only a 'contact' sport, it is a 'combat' sport," the complaint said. "Joseph Chernach's suicide was the natural and probable consequence of the injuries he suffered playing Pop Warner football."
And she has some unexpected alies who agree with her;
NFL Hall of Famer Mike Ditka has dedicated his life to football. But if he had a son today, he wouldn’t want that child to do the same, according to a Saturday report by the Chicago Tribune.
In an episode of “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” set to air on HBO on Tuesday, Ditka asks sports reporter Bryant Gumbel if he himself would want his child to play football.
“I wouldn’t,” Gumbel says. “Would you?”
“Nope,” Ditka replies. “I wouldn't. And my whole life was football. I think the risk is worse than the reward. I really do.”