NFL Concussion Injury Lawsuits: Frequently Asked Questions

The National Football League continues to be the United States’ most popular and most profitable professional sports league. By the end of 2014, the 32 teams that comprise the NFL had a combined market value of $46 billion, and the NFL’s revenue was estimated to be about $9.5 billion per year.

However, the NFL has come under heavy fire in recent years for the way it has dealt with brain injures – specifically concussions – suffered by its current and former players. Focus on the subject has intensified in recent years after the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy discovered evidence of a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of 59 of 62 deceased former NFL players.

The film Concussion (released late in 2015) brought the issue into the national consciousness once again. Concussion stars Will Smith as Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist who was among the first to publish findings on CTE as it relates to football players.

As more information about the link between former NFL players and CTE and other brain injuries has come to light, lawsuits have emerged alleging that the NFL hid the dangers of concussions. A class-action lawsuit brought by more than 5,000 ex-NFL players was settled in early 2013, awarding $900 million or more to former players over the next 65 years.

Sheff Law has assembled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the NFL concussion lawsuits and who stands to benefit from this settlement.

What Are the Details of the NFL’s Concussion Lawsuit Settlement?

On April 22, 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody approved a settlement of at least $900 million to resolve concussion lawsuits between the NFL and thousands of former players over the next 65 years. The settlement came about 3.5 years after the first of more than 200 suits were filed by more than 5,000 retired NFL players, which were ultimately consolidated into a master complaint.

The $900 million figure includes payment of monetary awards to retirees diagnosed with certain neurological conditions and funding for a program to monitor, diagnose and counsel ex-players, including $75 million for a program of baseline examinations of players for potential brain impairment, counseling and treatment.

Who Can Benefit from the Settlement?

The settlements should apply to about 25,000 NFL players who retired by July 7, 2014, as well as about 9,000 relatives of deceased players. As is the case with many traumatic brain injury victims, former NFL players who suffered from head injuries have suffered debilitating and life-threatening conditions.

Based on age of diagnosis, years played in the NFL and other factors, awards can reach up to $5 million for a diagnosis of ALS, up to $4 million for diagnosis after death of CTE and up to $3.5 million for diagnoses of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The settlement also included payments of up to $3 million for neurocognitive impairment such as “moderate dementia” and up to $1.5 million for conditions such as “early dementia.”

What Is CTE and How Does It Relate to the NFL?

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive, degenerative disease found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions and sub-concussive hits to the head that do not cause symptoms.

In 2008, the Sports Legacy Institute joined with the Boston University School of Medicine to form the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE). Since then, several studies have found CTE in the brains of an alarmingly high percentage of former NFL players. One recent study published by the CTSE found CTE in the brains of 59 of 62 deceased NFL players. In October of 2015, a study of 91 former NFL players who, when alive, had concerns about CTE, confirmed that 87 did indeed test positive for the disease.

What Other Brain Injuries Are Associated with the NFL’s Settlement?

In addition to CTE, the settlement provides specific provisions for former players diagnosed with ALS, (Lou Gehrig’s disease) Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, “neurocognitive impairment” and additional brain injuries. Symptoms of these diseases and conditions can include memory loss, early dementia, lessened concentration, speech abnormalities, depression and more.

Who Are Some Former NFL Players Who Have Suffered From CTE or Brain Injury?

Former players with confirmed post-mortem cases of CTE include Jovan Belcher, Frank Gifford, Chris Henry, Terry Long, Junior Seau, Andre Waters and Mike Webster. Living former players who’ve been diagnosed with CTE or ALS or who have reported symptoms consistent with those diseases include Tony Dorsett, Brett Favre, Bernie Kosar, Jamal Lewis, Jim McMahon, Kyle Turley and Frank Wycheck.

Definitive CTE diagnoses can only be made post-mortem, but an increasing number of former NFL players are reporting symptoms consistent with CTE and other brain injuries.

If you are a current or retired NFL player or the family member of a player who’s been diagnosed with a brain injury, who suffers from brain injury symptoms or is who concerned about the long-term effects of playing football, contact Sheff Law for a free, no-obligation consultation today to explore your options.