NFL Agrees to Pay $765 Million for Player Concussions
The National Football League will settle a bevy of lawsuits filed by thousands of former players, agreeing to shell out $765 million to put to rest claims that it downplayed or covered up evidence on the long-term consequences of repeated head injuries.
Over 4,200 players had joined up in dozens of lawsuits that were combined for preliminary hearings in Philadelphia. The judge had suggested that the two sides find a way to settle the suits, but there were no indications that any agreement would be reached until Thursday’s surprise announcement.
The money will go toward concussion-related studies, as well as directly to players for compensation and medical expenses.
Kevin Turner, one of the plaintiffs and a former fullback for the Philadelphia Eagles, praised the settlement for bringing immediate relief to suffering players as opposed to dragging on for years or even decades. “It’s not as good as it could [be] but it’s such a heavy burden removed where they will have the means to live a quality of life as best they can,” the player said, his voice slurred and halting from a debilitating medical condition he believes was the result of head trauma he suffered during his career.
The dangers of repeated brain injuries have become widely apparent in the past few years, as researchers discover a brain plaque, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE, that forms in some concussion victims and causes symptoms of memory loss, dementia and early death. A number of high-profile players have committed suicide in recent years due to what were thought to be concussion-related complications, including Junior Seau of the San Diego Chargers and Dave Duerson of the Chicago Bears.
The players who filed suit alleged that the NFL knew of the dangers for years but nevertheless encouraged and even marketed the big hits and violent action inherent in the sport, while falling down on their duty to protect players’ health and safety. The league pushed back, claiming they had no particular inside knowledge about the consequences of head injuries and never misled anybody.
Now the players will get some compensation, and the NFL will be spared costly litigation that had the potential to be catastrophic for its image and public relations efforts.
The settlement must still be approved by the judge.