When it comes to football, concussions have always been treated like an occupational hazard – just something that happens when you play the game. But in recent years, stories like this and this have prompted the NFL to take greater steps to monitor and prevent these head injuries. But for many retired athletes, the damage had already been done.
More than 4,500 former players sued the NFL, alleging the league knowingly failed to protect players from concussions, and therefore long-term effects such as depression, dementia and even suicide. And after months of negotiations here in Philadelphia, a settlement was reached yesterday. If approved by the judge, the NFL will pay out $765 million in the concussion case. Here’s how it will break down:
- Baseline medical exams: $75 million
- Fund to compensate former players with cognitive injury or their families: at least $675 million (this includes medical evidence of severe cognitive impairment, dementia, Alzheimer’s and ALS)
- Research and education fund: $10 million
- Remainder for administrative, legal fees, etc: $5 million
All good, right? Well, some advocates don’t think so. The sum amounts to about $20,000 per player per year for 20 years, which isn’t a small amount of money, but also isn’t a life-changing amount for someone living with all the medical costs of a brain injury. Also, by settling, the NFL doesn’t have to admit any liability – in other words, they never have to say that these injuries were caused by football.
The overall consensus is that while these former players and their families are certainly sharing in some victory, the lion’s share of the celebration is with the NFL. As Kevin Mawae, former president of the NFL Player’s Association, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, “For the cost of their least valuable team, the NFL was able to remove a huge monkey off their back. At end of the day it’s a very small price to pay considering the negative outcome that could have happened to the NFL if the players had taken this to court.”
How do you think the NFL is handling player concussions? What improvements would you like to see be made for the safety of the players?