A former University of Minnesota football player has sued the school and collegiate athletic organizations for concussions he suffered as a student athlete, alleging that they hid the dangers of head injuries in order to maximize profits.

Josh Campion's lawsuit, filed this week in Hennepin County District Court, appears to be the first to accuse the U of failing to protect football players from head injuries despite several decades of public knowledge about the risks. The suit claims various rules were poorly enforced or ignored.

The U, Big Ten Conference Inc. and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

"The protocol under which Josh Campion played at the U of M was entirely inadequate in that NCAA and U of M failed, among other things, to educate student football players not to lead with the front of the helmeted head in blocking and tackling, and failed to educate coaches, players, and trainers to identify routine 'dings' and 'seeing stars' as concussive and/or sub-concussive injuries," the suit claims.

"U of M football coaches encouraged and never discouraged helmet first contact in blocking and tackling at a time when U of M, the NCAA, and the Big Ten were fully aware that helmet first techniques in blocking and tackling were dangerous and could lead to concussive and sub-concussive injuries"

Campion, 30, played offensive line for the U from 2011-15 under former coach Jerry Kill, who is not named in the suit. Campion was an honorable-mention All-Big Ten offensive tackle in 2014. He stopped playing after suffering his fourth concussion in 2015.

The suit alleges that Campion's head injuries ended his prospects as a likely second-round draft pick for the NFL that would have resulted in a "substantial contract."

Campion, who lives in his hometown of Fergus Falls, Minn., could not be reached for comment.

His attorneys, David Langfitt of Pennsylvania and Garrett Blanchfield of St. Paul, did not return messages seeking comment. Langfitt has led personal injury litigation against the NFL and NCAA involving brain injuries, representing more than a thousand former players.

The U is aware of the lawsuit but doesn't comment on pending litigation as a general rule, a school spokesman said.

A Big Ten spokesman also said the conference does not comment on pending litigation. The NCAA did not return messages seeking comment.

Campion is seeking damages in excess of $25,000, attorneys' fees and costs, and any other award deemed appropriate by the court.

Campion suffered at least four diagnosed concussions and "innumerable undiagnosed concussions" in practices and games while at the U, the suit said.

"As a direct and proximate result of the Defendants' negligence, Josh Campion incurred damages in the form of memory loss, emotional distress, personality change, pain and suffering, out of pocket expenses, lost earnings, and permanent neurological impairment that could include possible early onset Alzheimer's disease and or [chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or, brain degeneration], all of which will require extensive medical care," the suit said.

According to the suit: The U implemented a "concussion management plan" mandated by the NCAA in 2010. But the plan, which was in place during Campion's tenure, was "completely inadequate."

The U did not implement and the NCAA did not mandate the use of a neurologist or neuropsychologist on the sidelines or in the locker room to advise the football program, identify head injuries or to act independently to override decisions made by coaches and trainers.

The plan also did not include "procedures to govern and mitigate the culture of the U of M football program to win at all costs" or procedures to stop the university from discouraging players from voicing concerns about head injuries or from pulling themselves out of games.

The NCAA has known since 1932 that repetitive head injuries in football could result in long-term brain disease, the suit said, and its medical handbook in 1933 required independent medical diagnosis and treatment of concussions at college games and practices.

But coaches and trainers at the U were often responsible for identifying head injuries at the same time that coaches encouraged players to use their helmets as "weapons," according to the suit.

Campion, then a freshman, first suffered a "severe blow" to his head in a 2011 preseason practice that led to a diagnosed concussion. No one at the U or NCAA had asked him about head injuries in high school, according to the suit.

He suffered another concussion in 2012 and two in 2015, the last one in the second quarter of a game.

Coaches kept Campion in the game after his fourth concussion without seeking professional evaluation and treatment despite "worsening symptoms," the suit said.

"Because U of M's football coaching staff, trainers, and team doctors did not remove Josh Campion from the game at the time of the collision in the second quarter, Josh Campion sustained repeated concussive and sub-concussive blows to the head in the third and fourth quarters that aggravated the existing injury," the suit said. "At no time between 2011 and 2015 did U of M provide Josh Campion with an examination by a neurologist or neuropsychologist in response to any diagnosed concussion."

The suit also alleged that U doctors and trainers gave potent painkillers to Campion and other players so regularly that the athletes were unable to recognize pain or head injuries on the field.

"Josh Campion stayed in games and practices, because that is what U of M football expected of him," the suit said.

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708

Twitter: @ChaoStrib