National Football League concussion settlement gets final approval

Wed Apr 22, 2015 6:23pm EDT
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By Steve Ginsburg

(Reuters) - A federal judge gave final approval on Wednesday to a settlement in a lawsuit brought by about 5,000 former National Football League players who accused the league of covering up the dangers of concussions.

The settlement, approved by Judge Anita Brody, includes allowing for monetary awards of up to $5 million per retired player for serious medical conditions associated with repeated head trauma and could cost the league $1 billion over 65 years.

NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said the league, with $10 billion in annual revenues, looked forward "to implementing the terms of the settlement and continuing to work with our players, coaches and medical staffs to enhance the safety" of football.

But payments could be held up indefinitely if any player who is part of the settlement files an appeal. If there are no appeals, players could begin to see benefits from the settlement this summer.

The NFL is accused of covering up the dangers of concussions to keep players on the field. The league and the players union estimate that 30 percent of former players will develop brain conditions like Alzheimer’s or a less debilitating form of dementia.

Concussions have become a major issue for America's most popular sports league, causing some players to cut short their careers, including Chris Borland, a 24-year-old linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, who recently retired over concerns about long-term head injuries.

"This is clearly a tremendous moment for the NFL retired player community," Christopher Seeger, co-lead counsel for the players, told a teleconference.

"With over 99 percent participation, it's clear that the retired player community overwhelmingly supports this agreement and is eager to begin taking advantage of its benefits."   Continued...

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is secured to a stretcher after being injured during the second quarter of their NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, December 28, 2008. REUTERS/ Jason Cohn