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Al Toon and Nick Toon

Al Toon, left, stands in the Camp Randall Stadium end zone with his son, Nick Toon, prior to the 2012 UW football spring game. Father and son both played for the Badgers before going on to play in the National Football League. Al Toon retired in 1992, citing his nine diagnosed concussions, as the reason.

CRAIG SCHREINER, STATE JOURNAL

A lawsuit filed by former National Football League player Al Toon against a Middleton woman and her insurance company claims that his injuries from a 2014 car crash caused by her negligence included permanent aggravation of post concussive syndrome.

Toon, 54, of Middleton, who retired from a stellar career as a receiver with the New York Jets at age 29 after he suffered his ninth diagnosed concussion, filed the lawsuit against Kelsey R. Shannon and Rural Mutual Insurance Co.

The lawsuit claims that on May 21, 2014, in Middleton, Shannon was distracted while driving her 2006 Toyota Prius westbound on Heather Knoll Trail and drove at a high speed through a stop sign at the intersection with Cardinal Point Trail and crashed into Toon’s vehicle “T-bone style.”

The crash will cause Toon “future suffering, anxiety, limitations and loss of customary lifestyle,” according to the lawsuit that was filed on Toon’s behalf by his attorney, Eric A. Farnsworth, of Madison.

Toon, who co-owns Olson Toon Lanscaping Inc. in Verona, was one of the first NFL players to note that the concussions he suffered from playing football were causing him long-term problems that included headaches, emotional volatility, lapses in concentration, fatigue and other problems.

He played college football at UW-Madison from 1981 to 1984 and retired from the Jets in 1992 after playing just eight seasons in the NFL. He was a three-time All-Pro, led the NFL in receptions one year and was the league’s highest-paid receiver at one point.

During Toon’s pro career, which began in 1985, the NFL did not acknowledge the dangers of concussions but has been pressured to acknowledge them over the past few years and no longer allows teams to rush concussed players back into games.

Three years after his retirement, Toon told The New York Times that “I thought of suicide” at one point because of his frustrations from his inability to recover from concussions.

“Now an episode comes and I take a day or week or a month off and it passes,” he said. “They used to last up to three months. For a while there, I was basically laying down in a dark room all day. I was bedridden.”

In 2005, forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu published a paper that said football players were subject to suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease of the brain. Some of the possible symptoms of the disease were the same symptoms that Toon listed were plaguing him.

Farnsworth did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Steve Olson, co-owner of Olson Toon Landscaping, said Toon is feeling good these days. “He’s fine,” Olson said.

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Rob Schultz has won multiple writing awards at the state and national levels and covers an array of topics for the Wisconsin State Journal in south-central and southwestern Wisconsin.