The National Football League (NFL) has agreed to spend nearly $800 million to resolve complaints brought by more than 4,500 former professional football players who accused the league of concealing its knowledge of concussion risks from players for decades.
Many of the plaintiffs in the class-action case suffer from neurodegenerative disorders and disease linked by medical researchers to concussion and other forms of traumatic brain injury. Medical researchers are exploring links between repeated concussion and other brain injuries to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE); Alzheimer’s; and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease – diseases which often result in symptoms such as dementia, confusion, cognitive decline, mental and emotional instability, depression, suicide, and other complications.
The lawsuit against the NFL was filed in Philadelphia in 2011 on behalf of former Atlanta Falcons player Ray Easterling and a few other players. Mr. Easterling killed himself a year later, however, having suffered from clinical depression, dementia, and an inability to focus and relate to people. A post-mortem examination of Mr. Easterling’s brain revealed that the former player, 62, suffered from CTE.
Other players who joined the lawsuit included Tony Dorsett, Jim McMahon, and Junior Seau. Mr. Seau also committed suicide in 2012. An analysis of his brain found that he also suffered from CTE.
Former Patriots and Eagles running back Kevin Turner, who suffers from ALS and also joined the lawsuit last year, told the Associated Press that he was grateful that the case was resolved.
“Chances are … I won’t make it to 50 or 60,” Mr. Turner, 44, told the AP. “I have money now to put back for my children to go to college and for a little something to be there financially.”
Most of the settlement money will go toward compensating athletes suffering from neurological disorders. According to the AP, “Individual payouts would be capped at $5 million for men with Alzheimer’s disease; $4 million for those diagnosed after their deaths with a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy; and $3 million for players with dementia …”
The settlement covers all 18,000 former NFL players alive today, but doesn’t extend to current players. All former players are eligible to seek screening, treatment and compensation, and the amounts they receive under the settlement terms will be based on their age, condition and years of play.
The agreement also devotes $75 million for medical exams and $10 million for medical research.