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Ex-players sue league in Florida over concussions

(Reuters) - Nearly two dozen former professional football players have sued the National Football League in Miami, the latest in a string of lawsuits brought by athletes over health problems they blame on concussions they suffered long ago on the field.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Leon Searcy and 20 other players, most of whom live in Florida, are asking for unspecified damages for brain injuries they say have left them facing medical problems years after their careers ended.

"Specialists in brain trauma have been warning about the risks of permanent brain damage for decades," the ex-players contend in a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Miami.

"The NFL -- as the organizer and purveyor of a professional sport in which head trauma is a regular and repeated occurrence -- was aware of these risks but deliberately ignored and concealed them," the lawsuit said.

The Miami lawsuit follows a similar one filed this week in Atlanta by four former players, including two Pro Bowl players, Dorsey Levens and Jamal Lewis.

Each lawsuit alleges the NFL did not do enough to protect players from concussions.

"Rather than warn its players that they risked permanent brain injury if they returned to play too soon after sustaining a concussion, the NFL actively deceived players, resulting in the players' belief that concussions did not present serious, life-altering risks," the Miami lawsuit states.

The lawsuit recounts each player's history of returning to play shortly after suffering a concussion and details neurological problems they experience today.

Searcy, for example, was described as suffering from headaches, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, irritability and mood swings.

About 11 federal lawsuits have been filed against the NFL by former players and some have been merged into class actions. A panel of federal judges will meet on January 26 in Miami to decide whether to consolidate the lawsuits into a single case.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Jerry Norton and David Bailey)