(Reuters) - A U.S. District judge in Minnesota refused on Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by former players accusing the National Hockey League of knowingly withholding information about the long-term effect of concussions.
The players have "adequately alleged that the NHL negligently or fraudulently omitted information" about the dangers of repeated head trauma, Judge Susan Nelson said in her ruling.
Former All-Stars Bernie Nicholls and Gary Leeman are among about 70 ex-players suing the league in a class action over the concussion issue. Nicholls has said he suffered at least three concussions and numerous sub-concussive hits to the head in his career.
The case charts a path taken by thousands of former players in the National Football League, whose class action awaits judicial approval but is expected to cost the league about $1 billion.
The lead attorneys for the NHL players said in a statement they were "pleased the court has confirmed the validity of our claims."
"It is time for the NHL to be held accountable for deliberately ignoring and concealing the risks of repeated head impacts, and finally provide security and care to retired players whom the league has depended on for its success," they said.
In a statement, the NHL said: While we would have hoped for a different result on this motion, we understand that the case is at a relatively early stage, and there will be ample opportunity for us to establish our defenses as the discovery process progresses."
The league has argued in part that the lawsuit should be dismissed because of issues of timing and jurisdiction, saying too much time had passed since the players suffered the injuries.
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney