The United States Supreme Court has refused to hear the final challenges to a settlement between the NFL and its former players regarding brain injuries due to the concussions players suffered during their time in the League. The unanimous judgment of the Third Circuit, which affirmed Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody’s 2015 approval of the settlement, is now the final decision in the case.
The settlement resulted from thousands of lawsuits filed on behalf of former NFL players who suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), or other concussion-related symptoms. The lawsuit claimed that the NFL had known about, but refused to acknowledge, the link between playing professional football and neurocognitive disorders, including CTE, resulting from repeated concussions. One of the first plaintiffs, former NFL fullback Kevin Turner, was initially diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and died earlier this year at the age of 46. An autopsy indicated that he had actually suffered from CTE, which produces similar symptoms. Traumatic brain injuries, like concussions, can also lead to neurocognitive impairments such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and mild-to-moderate dementia. Estimates indicate that 6,000 retired players—nearly three in 10—could develop moderate dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
The appeals contesting the settlement argued that it left out players who had not yet been diagnosed with neurological diseases in favor of retired players who had already been diagnosed prior to Judge Brody’s decision. They also contended that the settlement did not acknowledge scientific advances that could potentially detect CTE while the players are still alive, as currently the scientific community only formally recognizes post-mortem CTE diagnoses via autopsy. However, the terms of the settlement expressly provide that the qualifying diagnosis criteria must be re-evaluated on a periodic basis to account for new, generally accepted advancements in medical science.
The settlement provides Baseline Assessment testing for all covered players, and provides monetary awards to players who have been or are diagnosed in the future with mild or moderate dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, or who were diagnosed post-mortem with CTE before April 22, 2015. These payments vary depending on the type of diagnosis, age of the player at diagnosis, and number of seasons played in the NFL, but could range from thousands of dollars to as much as $5 million per player, with the uncapped settlement likely to reach over $1 billion.
If you or a loved one are a retired NFL player and would like to learn more about the settlement and how we can help, contact Pope McGlamry at 877-285-7656 for a consultation about your case.