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Too steep a price?

“Wow!” The fans said. “What a hit!” “Way to go, kid!” chimed in the coaches. “Go out there and do it again!”

“Smack ’em up, stack ’em up!” chanted the cheerleaders.

So Adrian Arrington, like so many other athletic young men, put on his helmet and trotted out onto the gridiron, secure in the knowledge that playing tough — one clip from his college football days shows him blasting a Purdue University receiver so hard that his helmet flies off — would lead to success.

But now Arrington, who played for Eastern Illinois University, has joined with three other former collegiate players in suing the NCAA. He says he suffered at least five concussions on the field, but was cleared to continue playing by the team doctor and put back in, despite exhibiting bizarre behavior and confusion.

The result, he charges, is lasting neurological damage, causing memory loss, migraine headaches, depression and seizures so severe that he’s dislocated his shoulder. He is unable to work, he claims, and sometimes doesn’t dare care for his young children alone for fear that he will lose consciousness and put them in jeopardy.

The case, which could become a class-action suit, is one aspect of a crisis that is shaking the foundations of football as well as sports as varied as lacrosse, baseball and diving.

New safety rules have been adopted, but more than 4,000 former NFL players claim that the league covered up the risks associated with the injury ... and the NCAA is also now a target. Litigants say the organizations’ leadership knew back in 2003 that multiple concussions could lead to health problems, but did not require colleges to have concussion policies until 2010.

Arrington says he still watches football every weekend and says he doesn’t want to destroy the game with his lawsuit, but just wants to make it safer, correcting what he sees as a fundamental hypocrisy.

“The whole thing about college football, they say they are the people who guide young men’s lives,” he said in a recent interview.

“What does the young person do when he gets an injury to his brain? What was your point of going to college if you can’t think for yourself?”

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