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Why the $765 Million Concussion Settlement is Good for the NFL

On Aug. 29 just before the 2013 NFL regular season kicked off, the league reached a $765 million settlement with 4,500 former players seeking compensation from on the field concussion-related brain injuries. This came after a mediator spent months holding talks.

For the most part it’s been positively received.

From the $765 million sum, $675 million will pay former league players and the families of deceased ones who incurred cognitive injuries as well as ones who lost players to suicide after battling chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Additional monies will include medical exams ($75 million), research and education ($10 million) while players’ awards have been capped based on the ailment: Alzheimer’s disease ($5 million), deaths caused by chronic traumatic brain damage ($4 million) and dementia ($3 million).

The payments will take place over the next 20 years but half must be paid within the next three years; the remainder will come over the course of 17 years. According to ESPN, the compensation program has been created to stick around for a 60-year time span which will enable a retired player who could develop a neurological ailment some time later, will then be eligible to ask for compensation.

Many thought the $765 million wasn’t high enough given the deep pockets of the NFL but this sum comes with numerous supporters as it takes care of past, present and future players. A first supporter is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

He said last week of the settlement via ESPN, “We were able to find a common ground to be able to get the relief to the players and their families now rather than spending years litigating when those benefits wouldn’t go to the players. So we’re very supportive of it and we think it’s the right thing to move forward and to try to do what we can to help our players and their families.”

While it will take months to actually distribute the money, it will encompass payments to all of the retired players who are suffering from neurological problems, not just the plaintiffs who filed the case. The league will also pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees–a number that could hit a few ten million dollars.

These attorneys had been anxious to settle as many of their clients are battling neurological problems that require immediate help. Had the two sides not reached a deal, the litigation could have dragged on for years and these players could have been excluded from the financial benefits. There was also the possibility that courts would have not ruled for the players and a worse case scenario could have included no financial assistance.

But that is the not the case and Christopher Seeger, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said via The New York Times, “The big picture was we got immediate care to the retired players, and I think we accomplished that.”

One such player is former Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots fullback Kevin Turner, 44, who has as been suffering from A.L.S. for the last four years. He spends $8,500 per month on medical expenses and said via the New York Times, “I thought five years would be great and maybe I could live to see that. There will always be people who said there should have been more, but they are probably not the ones with A.L.S. and at home.”

He added this settlement will also raise awareness.

In addition, Seeger further explained that the players will not need to prove health issues came from head injuries during their league days, instead compensation is determined by a player’s age and the number of years in the NFL. It neither includes a player’s position nor the amount of sustained concussions.

Another positive from the settlement is the effect on current and future NFL players. Now a player cannot use his head as a weapon. CBS’ James Brown explained, “A running back who has a ball and he sees he’s about to be tackled cannot lower his head and use the crown of his helmet as a spear to go into another player’s sternum. These rules will be enforced vigorously and have substantial penalties associated with it as well.”

Many will think the sum could have been higher but with the potential for years of litigation, it could have had an adverse effect on the NFL, potentially taking a huge hit. Now the next challenge may be seeing the league’s current players enduring less brain traumas.

Debbie Baratz

Deb has been writing about the NFL and NCAA football for the last few years. She is a full-time writer and an avid sports fan. Follow her on twitter @ldbar.

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