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Former Football Players Sue Stanford University, NCAA, PAC-12 Over Mishandled Concussions

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A complaint filed on behalf of thousands of former Stanford University football players alleges the university, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Pac-12 Conference knew that football players were in danger of permanent brain injuries but did not protect the players so as to "protect the very profitable business of 'amateur' college football."

Chris Dore, a partner at the law firm Edelson PC said the lawsuit filed Thursday against Stanford, the NCAA and Pac-12 is only one of 15 lawsuits that have been filed in recent weeks by his firm against colleges and athletic conferences on behalf of college football players.

The wave of lawsuits comes on the heels of two other related lawsuits: One is a a lawsuit against the NCAA, which did not include monetary compensation for players but made strides in medical monitoring and tests for concussions. The second is a $1 billion concussion settlement against the National Football League alleging that the league failed to warn players and hid the damages of brain injury.

Dore told CBS San Francisco Friday that the defendants didn't want to discourage play or participation in the sport out of concern that there would be "loss of significant profits."

He said that this punitive class action lawsuit is led by plaintiff David Burns, who played at Stanford University in the 1970s, but is filed on behalf of thousands of football players who played for the university's team between 1959 and 2010.

Dore said the defendants knew about scientific studies, some even conducted at the very same universities, that described the dangers of concussions, but did nothing to protect players.

The complaint states that "... Defendants Stanford, Pac-12, and the NCAA have kept their players and the public in the dark about an epidemic that was slowly killing their athletes."

The plaintiff is demanding a jury trial and monetary relief for players. Dore said dozens more lawsuits are expected in coming weeks.

In addition to Stanford players, former football players for Boston College, University of North Carolina, Wake Forest University and Brigham Young University filed suit on Thursday in federal courts against their respective colleges, conferences and the NCAA.

Among the other colleges named as defendants in the complaints are: Pennsylvania State University, Ohio State University, University of Tennessee, and Vanderbilt University, as well as the conferences: Big Ten, SEC, WAC, and ACC.

Read also: Panthers, Broncos Players Suffer Super Bowl Concussions

"Unfortunately, for decades, Defendants Stanford, Pac-12, and the NCAA knew about the debilitating long-term dangers of concussions, concussion-related injuries, and sub-concussive injuries (referred to as "traumatic brain injuries" or "TBIs") that resulted from playing college football, but actively concealed this information to protect the very profitable business of 'amateur' college football," the complaint alleges.

Dore noted that unlike the recent NFL concussion settlement, there have been many more college football players and those players are not compensated for their play.

"When people watch college football, they see them as superhuman," Dore said, but he says they're really just kids.

Stanford University' associate vice president of communications Lisa Lapin told CBS San Francisco on Friday, "Stanford was surprised to see this lawsuit purporting to be a class action on behalf of football players from 1959 to 2010.  Stanford has always acted in the best interests of its student-athletes and their health and safety has been Stanford's paramount concern. Stanford will vigorously defend this lawsuit."

By Hannah Albarazi - Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.

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