Philadelphia, PA is the site today where attorneys representing former NFL players and their families are battling in court to reach a settlement with the National Football League (NFL) regarding a legal proposal’s terms to treat the destructive effects of concussions. Over time, multiple brain trauma leads to a laundry list of negative outcomes that may include cognitive ailments such as dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and a host of other debilitating brain health issues. These have led to the deaths of legendary players Mike Webster, Junior Seau and Andre Waters who played 12 seasons in the league and 10 of those played with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Findings from the nation’s largest traumatic brain injury donation laboratory discovered evidence of neurodegenerative brain disease in just over 96 percent of former football athletes that played at the professional, college, semi-professional and secondary school level. Dr. Ann McKee, who is director of the brain bank, asserts there seems to be a clear link between traumatic brain injuries and football for many players. She adds that not every player suffers the adverse effects of brain injury, but generally the longer one plays and the higher the level of play increases the likelihood of the athlete experiencing some form of brain injury.
In addition to the moderate dementia or Alzheimer’s that the NFL expects nearly 30 percent of former players to develop over their lifetime, professional football’s signature disease, CTE, slowly is being pinched into seclusion. The NFL plans to leave out future payments for chronic CTE, which has been documented as a causal factor in the suicide deaths of Ray Easterling, Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Jovan Belcher.
Additionally, if the NFL’s concussion settlement is approved today in the City of Brotherly Love, there would be no awards paid to players or the families’ of players dealing with the CTE-related behavioral issues such as erratic outbursts, paranoia, depression and plunging mood swings. Families of and former players diagnosed with a football-related brain disorder before 2006, may not even be entitled to any compensation at all.
Eligible players could receive up to a $5 million award based on the player’s age, years spent in NFL and diagnosis. Retired players suffering from other neuro-cognitive disorders, including Lou Gehrig ’s disease, Parkinson’s, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis are also eligible for assistance according to the terms in the proposal. Compensation is reduced, however, if the trauma is not diagnosed as football-related.
The families of Duerson and Seau find the NFL’s position in the court hearing to be unsatisfactory. Additionally, just over 200 former players or their estates have submitted legal objections to the proposal. Nearly 200 others, including Hall of Fame offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure and the Seau family intend to sue the NFL separately for settlement.
Critics of the scheme in Philadelphia and around the country allege the NFL would be getting off far too lightly if the settlement is approved considering the league generates over $10 billion per year and is only on the hook for $1 billion to compensate a growing number of players that currently have or will develop degenerative brain conditions over time.
Detailed projections propose at least 1 in 3 retired NFL players will develop severe cognitive issues during the plan’s 65-year shelf life. Anita B. Brody, Senior US District Judge squashed the initial settlement agreement reached by attorneys for former NFL players and the NFL due to concerns of insufficient funds over time when factoring inflation.
Revisions to the legal proposal also remove the cap allowing the NFL to release more money if needed over time; but that is time that many players may not have. “What matters now is time, and many retired players do not have much left,” former Philadelphia Eagle Kevin Turner said in a statement Tuesday urging the plan’s passage. Turner, 45, has Lou Gehrig’s disease and can’t make the Philadelphia court appearance. Former Philadelphia Eagle kick return specialist Reno Mahe, recently cited in a gas theft case, is also showing signs of the erratic behavior associated to traumatic brain injury. Mahe is 34.
The hearing held in Philadelphia, PA is intended to resolve numerous lawsuits that cite the NFL for obscuring concussion risks to rush players back onto the field. There are approximately 4,500 players or their estates currently involved in the settlement litigation while the number of NFL-documented concussive and non-documented concussive players continues to grow. The hearing in Philadelphia is the stage for one of the largest class action lawsuits in sports history.
By D’wayne Stanelli