Following years of lawsuits and months of mediation, many California pro football fans, like those across the country, were surprised to hear about a proposed settlement to the lawsuits brought by over 4,500 former National Football League (NFL) against the league. The players contend that their neurological ailments stem from concussions they received playing football. The proposed settlement of $765 million will be used to compensate players for their injuries, pay for medical exams, and fund medical research.
The announcement was met with mixed reactions. NFL fullback Kevin Turner, who suffers from ALS, expressed happiness because the settlement provides money to players who need medical treatment right now. However, others felt that the settlement amount was not high enough, and expressed concern that since the case was settled out of court, the NFL did not have to produce its files when it became aware of the link between concussions and brain injuries, and how much it knew. The plaintiffs have accused the NFL of concealing studies linking concussions to neurological problems.
However, the overall consensus was that the players risked losing if they went forward with litigation. Therefore, they took the money in order to help players who need financial assistance now to deal with their medical problems that in some cases have been completely disabling, as well as to provide for those who will need it in the future.
Under the terms of the settlement, all former NFL players are eligible for a brain assessment program whether they were part of the class-action case or not. They do not have to prove that their brain injury is related to a concussion sustained while playing football. If they are found to have a specified level of impairment, they will receive money for treatment. Those players with severe ailments such as ALS or Alzheimer's will get a payout that could be as much as $5 million. The families of players who committed suicide, as Junior Seau and Ray Easterling did, could also get payouts in the millions.
The NFL has denied any wrongdoing, but it was clearly facing a public relations nightmare, so it was to their benefit to settle. However, this is certainly not the end of the conversation. There is concern about head injuries to college and high school players. If they find themselves with lifelong ailments related to concussions, we could see further litigation.
Source: USA Today, "NFL reaches concussion settlement" Gary Mihoces, Aug. 29, 2013