In a stunning and sudden change of position, the National Football League now acknowledges that 1 in 3 former players are likely to develop some long term brain damage from repeated head trauma and TBI suffered during their playing careers. The data was compiled by actuaries retained by the NFL and provided to United States District Court Justice Anita B. Brody of Philadelphia, who has been supervising the settlement of approximately 5,000 former players’ claims against the league that the NFL knew that repeated concussions led to long term permanent injuries and diagnoses but intentionally withheld this information.
Specifically, the ex-players contended in their lawsuit that the NFL was well aware for many years that repeated head trauma would cause Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), dementia, depression, mood disorders, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, (CTE) which is not possible to diagnose until an autopsy is performed. Last fall, a $675 million settlement was entered into between the players’ lawyers and the NFL. However, Justice Brody rejected the settlement amount, considering the proceeds to be inadequate to fairly compensate all potential claimants over the 65 year life of the settlement. Justice Brody directed counsel for both sides to submit a more substantial total settlement package.
To address the concerns of Justice Brody, the NFL agreed in June of 2014 to pay an unlimited amount in awards for brain injuries suffered by former players who filed claims under the settlement agreement. Some former players, or their families, (as in the case of Junior Seau, the all-star linebacker for the San Diego Chargers who killed himself and requested that his brain be studied for brain injury), “opted out” of the settlement and will sue the NFL individually.
A significant percentage of the payouts to ex-players will be for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or advanced dementia. They will receive approximately 800 million dollars. The NFL and players’ attorneys believe that the largest payouts will go to players suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, ALS or CTE. Estimates by lawyers for the players are that approximately 28% of players (5,900) will develop injuries for which they are entitled to compensation. About 60 percent of these players are expected to file claims which would comprise about $950 million.
The actuarial reports are magnifying one of the main concerns of the players who have joined the class action, as well as those who have not—namely, that players with less severe brain injuries due to repeated concussions will not receive any compensation or minimal compensation at best. Seven retired players submitted papers to a federal appeals court requesting that the Court review the issue of compensation for less severely affected ex-players, but the appeals Court declined to do so.