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Family of American footballer who shot six people to sue NFL over head injuries

The family of a former American footballer who shot dead six people before taking his own life is suing the NFL because they say his death was caused by head trauma suffered during his playing career.

Phillip Adams killed doctor Robert Lesslie, 70, and his wife Barbara Lesslie, 69, at their home in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in 2021, alongside their grandchildren, nine-year-old Adah and five-year-old Noah.

He also shot dead two air conditioning repairmen, James Lewis and Robert Shook, both 38, who were working at the house.

After his death, Adams' brain was analysed and was found to have an unusually severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a brain disease linked to repeated blows to the head.

Adams' father, Alonzo Adams, had previously filed a wrongful death lawsuit against South Carolina State University, the university team his son played for.

He alleged "negligence" in educating Phillip Adams on head trauma and for failing to provide better protections for players. His family's lawyers have now filed a motion to amend that complaint to include the NFL.

Between 2010 and 2016, Adams played in the NFL for various teams, including the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots as a defensive back.

At the time of his murder spree, Adams' father told local news station WCNC Charlotte that he believed his son's career had contributed to his downfall.

"I can say he's a good kid," Adams said. "I think the football messed him up."

Sky News recently investigated links between head injuries and violent crime.

Noah Green, a former high school football star, ploughed his car into a barricade at the Capitol Building in Washington DC in 2021, killing police officer William Evans.

A study of his brain revealed he had CTE - the same brain disease as Phillip Adams.

His mother, Mazie Green, believes his actions that day can be explained by injuries he suffered on the football field.

"None of this should have occurred that day," she told Sky News. "Someone has to take the responsibility for telling parents what to do if something's just not quite right with those kids that are out there playing football for entertainment."

There are increasing calls to investigate links between mass violence and head injuries.

Robert Card had evidence of traumatic brain injuries before he shot and killed 18 people last year, according to a brain tissue analysis that was requested by the state's chief medical examiner.

In a statement about Phillip Adams, South Carolina State University said: "While the university mourns the tragic loss of life involving Phillip Adams, the university denies the allegations made in the lawsuit.

"South Carolina State University employed trained and qualified medical professionals and athletic trainers, and we believe there is no support for the claim that Mr Adams' death was a result of any act or omission by the university."

Sky News has approached the NFL for comment.