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Retired NFL Players Settle Suit Over Traumatic Brain Injuries

Junior Seau in 2008 with the New England Patriots

There are more than 18,000 retired NFL players. Some time ago, more than 4,500 of these former players - a full quarter of them - sued the NFL over traumatic brain injuries that they claim caused dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and other conditions.

On Aug. 28 the players settled with the NFL - ending any future claims - by agreeing to the league's offer to pay $765 million to provide medical benefits and injury compensation for the retired players, fund medical and safety research, and cover litigation expenses. The NFL will also pay the players' legal fees. While the families of deceased players will be entitled to a slice of the settlement, current players will not.

You may remember that Junior Seau, the legendary NFL linebacker, committed suicide last year at the age of 43 after he was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head. Autopsies of several other players have found the same disease in their brains.

But why sue the NFL?  Didn't the players assume the risk of injury when they decided to play professional football?

No, said the players who brought the suit. According to some, the NFL knew more about the risk of traumatic brain injury than the players did and concealed the information in the interests of keeping them playing. In other words, they argued, the NFL placed the value of "high-quality" entertainment over high-quality health information for its players.

The settlement is probably good news for the NFL, or as good as news can be when they're paying out almost a billion bucks. The league will no longer have to worry about litigating thousands of individual claims. It also may be good news for the retired players and their families, who will see their money soon rather than years down the road, assuming that a federal judge rubber-stamps the settlement.

In settling, the NFL is not admitting guilt, and it will not have to disclose what it knew or didn't know about concussions and their lasting effects.

NFL Executive Vice President Jeffrey Pash said that the agreement will help the NFL make the game safer for future players. In fact, many lawyers speculate, it might even encourage safety precautions to prevent future injuries and lawsuits. That function - deterrence - is an important role that the law can play. Assuming that the NFL doesn't want to attract future bad publicity and pay out millions more, it will, from the very top down, take steps to let players know the risks of football and help them avoid them.


Photo: í‚ngulo ótimo via Wikipedia


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