Perhaps retired pro football players would have fared better if they’d held out longer, and perhaps they would have squandered valuable time and money. As it is, the settlement announced Thursday in a dispute between the players and the National Football League over debilitating head injuries addresses most of the players’ concerns.
The agreement, reached during court-ordered mediation, totals $765 million. Of that, $675 million would go into a compensation fund, $75 million would go toward medical exams and additional millions would be invested in research and an education fund. All those are appropriate.
What’s more, former players with severe conditions could receive up to $5 million, and the families of players whose chronic traumatic encephalopathy wasn’t diagnosed until after their deaths also could collect up to $5 million.
Kevin Turner, 44, a former Philadelphia Eagles running back who four years ago was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, said the money “will lift a huge burden off the men who are suffering right now.”
There are a lot of them, and they will not have to prove they’ve had an on-field concussion to qualify for proceeds. The settlement involves the cases of more than 4,000 players, including Hall of Fame members such as Tony Dorsett. It also will include any players who retire by the time a federal judge approves it in the coming months. Among the plaintiffs was the family of former San Diego Charger linebacker Junior Seau, whose suicide helped focus national attention on the issue of head injuries in pro football.
His family sued the NFL after he underwent tests that turned up a disease caused by repeated hits to the head and whose symptoms include both depression and aggression.
Americans like to remember players such as Junior Seau making spectacular plays on the field rather than in premature Alzheimer’s disease or suffering from chronic depression stemming from multiple concussions.
The lawsuits had accused the NFL of ignoring health risks and not warning players of the perils of multiple concussions even as it glorified the sport’s violence.
What the NFL, which had never admitted to misleading players about the risks that accompany pro football, gets out of the deal is the right to keep closed its files on the links between concussions and later problems.
Both sides seem content with the settlement. Given the millions of dollars in attorneys fees and expert witnesses and the years involved in continued litigation, it would appear that both sides saw the good sense in compromising.