The NFL’s Concussion Woes Continue After Court Challenge

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If you thought the NFL’s legal woes over concussions in the league were finished, guess again. According to The New York Times, a settlement, approved by a district court judge in April, is being challenged in court as a friend-of-the-court brief filed Thursday says the settlement is flawed because it does not cover the full range of physical and psychiatric disorders linked to brain trauma.


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Specifically, the settlement does not cover athletes who are found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative brain disease linked to repeated brain hits or brain injuries.

“The settlement neither recognizes nor compensates the majority of players suffering long-term consequences of brain trauma, but merely rewards certain small, discrete groups,” Shana De Caro and Michael Kaplen, lawyers for the Brain Injury Association of America, wrote in their brief filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. “The vast majority of retired football players experiencing physical, emotional and behavioral impairments following repetitive concussions remain excluded and uncompensated under settlement terms.”

The lawyers also argue an even larger flaw in the settlement is the lack of payments to players who have symptoms such as mood swings, sleep disorders, vertigo, dizziness, and headaches – symptoms commonly experienced by those with a history of repeated brain injury.

The current agreement does cover potential payments to players with dementia or “moderate to severe cognitive impairment,” but does not provide potential payments for players with problems linked to postconcussion syndrome.

The lawyers also cite issues with how the payments are structured for players. The deal provides the largest payments to players who were in the league at least 5 years and are younger than 45 as a proxy for their exposure to potential head hits. This means players older than 45 or have fewer than five years in the league receive smaller payments.

According to De Caro and Kaplen, this is an arbitrary decision.

“Grounding compensation upon years of N.F.L. service ignores the reality that a player can sustain a brain injury, and its permanent consequences, any time through his professional career, including preseason play or the first season,” they wrote.

While the brief raises legitimate issues that could potentially prevent many players affected by brain injuries in the league to not be included, the co-lead counsel for the retired players in the case said he regretted that the case had been appealed. Christopher Seeger said the appeal would slow payments to sick players, and said Judge Anita B. Brody of the United States District Court had “considered objections to the settlement at the fairness hearing last November and overruled them in an extremely thorough opinion granting final approval to the settlement.”

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