NFL concussion settlement Opt Out

Concussion Lawsuit This is a small story – for now; not as dramatic as Adrian Peterson or Ray Rice, but it may have huge implications down the road. In an online piece released by the Associated Press (November 4, 2014) entitled: “More than 200 opt out of NFL concussion settlement,” we learn that:

“More than 200 former players or their families have opted out of the proposed settlement of NFL concussion claims, fewer than 1 percent of the retirees covered by the deal, according to court documents filed Monday.”

Now we need to establish that these are retired players, many of whom have been out of the league for a long time. The “opt-out” players, if they develop brain injuries would have to prove their injuries are the result of football and related concussions as they are not part of the settlement.

For some extra background, allow me to please quote from the article:

“The NFL has agreed to pay at least $765 million, and more if needed, to address claims the NFL hid known concussion risks for years. Current players are not included in the litigation… Settlement notices were sent to 25,040 players and 8,924 relatives of deceased players, the filing said…

The average award for Alzheimer’s disease or moderate dementia is expected to be about $190,000, though it could go as high as $5 million for the most serious cases. The NFL’s actuaries expect about 6,000 men to be diagnosed with serious enough cognitive problems to qualify for an award.”

It is of course understandable that an elderly football player in the throes of dementia and perhaps his wife, or family could use $200,000 at this stage in their lives. Dementia is awful for any family, and takes the toll on everyone. We must also remember that players going back to the 1950s and earlier, made virtually nothing. Unless they got very lucky in business, they never had much of a retirement plan.

What do the 200 know that we don’t?

The settlement at $765 million represents a great deal of money, but is it enough? Yes, I completely understand that the ex-players in dementia and their families desperately need the money. For players who developed Lou Gehrig’s disease, dementia or other neurological problems caused by concussions, the money is a godsend.

However as the article tells us:

“Some leading brain trauma experts have also criticized the plan because it pays nothing to ex-players exhibiting mood swings, aggression and other behavioral problems they link to repetitive brain trauma.”

What will happen if the pool runs dry? What will happen to those players in the middle if some of their symptoms worsen? For example, ex-players in their early 50s with minor problems that get progressively worse as they approach their 60s and 70s?

If payment of up to $5 million might be awarded for very serious cases, isn’t it possible that there will be a shortfall? What then?

The ethics of it all is hidden in transparency. It sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? What does the NFL know about its sport that we do not know? Yes, $765 million is a lot of money, but let’s face it, it is way less than the value of a single football team, and way, way less than a television contract. Why was the NFL able to settle? How was the NFL able to settle.

Do the 200 holdouts know something that we don’t know?

For now, we can only raise questions. As someone who loves football, I worry about what some of the answers could be.

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