Ex-49er suing over league’s disability plan


San Francisco Chronicle

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Ex-49er suing over league’s disability plan

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Ex-49ers and Cal offensive lineman Ben Lynch is suing the NFL’s and player union’s joint disability plan. Lynch and his attorney, Cy Smith, filed the suit Wednesday, one day after four former NFL players testified about the board’s inadequacies in Congress.

The former center/guard, who played mainly as a backup for the 49ers from 1999 through 2002, sustained an anterior cruciate ligament tear Aug. 23, 2003, while in the Houston Texans’ training camp.

During a subsequent surgery to replace the torn ligament, Lynch developed a staph infection.

The infected ligament was removed, and in the five surgeries that followed, Lynch contracted complex regional pain syndrome.

“I would get this wild, burning pain just sitting around watching television,” Lynch said. He had his sixth surgery in an effort to relieve the pain Wednesday. Lynch feels excruciating pain and can walk only about 200 yards at a time.

On Sept. 29 of last year, Lynch sent an appeal to the NFL and the players’ union joint disability board for benefits. As of Wednesday morning, he hadn’t heard from the board. Lynch and his attorney are filing the suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which requires the board to respond in a timely manner.

“They haven’t made a decision,” Lynch said. “We just wanted to turn to the courts to see if we have a valid disability claim.”

Former Viking Brent Boyd, who has brain damage, former Raiders lineman Curt Marsh, who had his leg amputated after a botched surgery, former Giants Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson, who has post-concussion syndrome and former Bears coach Mike Ditka, an advocate for retired players, testified Tuesday before a congressional committee.

Most of their complaints were against the disability board, which often rejects claims for benefits. The six-member Pete Rozelle/Bert Bell Retirement Board has three representatives from the union and three from the NFL.

The NFL and the players’ union couldn’t be reached for comment.

E-mail Kevin Lynch at klynch@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page D – 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle





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