Former Mizzou football players latest to sue NCAA

ST. LOUIS — Two former Missouri football players are suing the NCAA in federal court over the lingering effects of head injuries they say they suffered decades ago, joining a cascade of recent lawsuits against college sports’ governing body related to traumatic brain injuries.

Tony VanZant and Sharron Washington, a pair of former St. Louis area prep stars, filed the suit Tuesday in Missouri’s eastern federal district. Both played for Missouri from 1987 to 1991.

VanZant was Parade Magazine’s national player of the year before blowing out his knee in a high school all-star game the summer before his freshman season at Mizzou. He is now running backs coach at Division II Lincoln University in Jefferson City.

Washington was a hard-hitting defensive back who was twice featured in ESPN’s “Hit of the Week” during the 1991 season, according to the suit. That was the same year he set a school record for most solo tackles in a season, including 18 in a game against Illinois.

Washington said he remained dizzy for a week after that game. Both say they still suffer headaches, depression and other traumatic ailments.

The lawsuit seeks class action status to enlist other possible plaintiffs, along with medical monitoring and testing for former college players with similar head injuries who didn’t advance to the NFL.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in recent months in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and Tennessee by ex-players from schools such as Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Oregon and Vanderbilt. Lawyers for the two players were not available for comment Thursday, and VanZant did not immediately respond to an interview request.

The NCAA has rejected claims in other lawsuits that it overlooked the dangers of traumatic brain injuries and understated concussion risks. The association cites recent charges to playing rules, equipment requirements and medical practices and calls player safety one of its “foundational principles.”