NFL settles class-action concussion lawsuit for $765 million

NFL fans know that the league began taking the long-term effect of concussions seriously a few seasons ago, after former players began a campaign of activism, while some filed a class-action lawsuit.  The two sides reached an agreement today that will cost the NFL more than three-quarters of a billion dollars, and which will spend most of its money on payments to former players for their complications:

Thousands of former football players, and their families, have reached a settlement with the National Football League in a lawsuit that put concussions, and their impact on the brain, on trial.

The deal, which is still pending approval by a U.S. district judge, would provide $765 million to fund medical exams, concussion-related compensation, medical research for retired NFL players and their families, and litigation expenses. …

The settlement includes a $675 million fund set up to compensate players who have suffered brain injury, or their families; a maximum of $75 million for medical exams; and $10 million devoted to research and education. The rest of the settlement would be devoted to legal fees and the cost of administering funds to plaintiffs.

The lawsuit was prompted by what former players contend was a deliberate attempt to mislead the public and current players about the dangers of the game. The NFL had created the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, which allegedly pushed false data and hid scientific research in order to hide the risks of repeated concussions.  The settlement does not require the NFL to admit any wrongdoing, but the amount of cash being ponied up now more than suggests that those claims made by the MTBI panel in the past are at the very least no longer functional.  For that matter, so does the sudden urge to change the rules to penalize helmet-to-helmet hits and protect defenseless players in the middle of a catch or a pass.

CNN includes this sad coda:

Meanwhile, the impact of the settlement may never fully register for former players like Fred McNeil, who is in the throes of early dementia.

McNeil, who has not yet shared the news of the lawsuit with Fred, says she can predict his reaction.

“I think he will pay attention for a minute, say ‘Oh wow,’ and then not really think about it until someone brings it up again,” she said. “It’s not something he’ll remember tomorrow.”

The league and the NFLPA should seriously consider the option of scaling down the pads and helmets, especially for defensive players.  The less they cocoon themselves, the less they will see themselves as guided missiles, and the more they may learn to get their heads out of the way of a hit.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on January 30, 2023