NFL, players reach injury deal
Focusing on the problem and costs of concussions, professional football team owners and former players made a deal to address each issue.
It's impossible to take the violence, hence the concussions, out of football, but the National Football League last week did the next best thing, settling litigation filed by former players who say they're suffering the lingering effects of head injuries sustained in their years playing professional football.
Lawyers for the NFL and more than 4,500 former players and their families announced the league will pay $765 million to settle the players' claims, a decision that will finance medical treatment for those who need it.
The players had sued the league, contending that NFL knew about and withheld information from players about the serious consequences of head injuries. People have known for decades about the cumulative effects of too many hits to the head; that's where the phrase "punch drunk" comes in when referring to former boxers and their diminished mental acuity.
But it has only been in the past few years that researchers were able to positively link the deaths of former players to a brain injury called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, popularly known as CTE. It's a degenerative brain disease somewhat akin to Alzheimer's disease, and its presence was confirmed by scientific examination of brains of deceased former players, including former Chicago Bears star defensive back Dave Duerson,
What initially started as a scientific dispute about the possibility of CTE ultimately evolved into a conclusion that it is real and the result of concussions.
As a new professional and college season begins, many fans will forget that the game they love to watch because of its combined grace, power and violence can exact a heavy toll on the participants. That's why it's imperative that continuing efforts be made to minimize the possibility of head injuries and treat them carefully when they occur.
The settlement was negotiated by a mediator appointed by Philadelphia U.S. Judge Anita Brody, and its principal benefit will be to get prompt assistance to those who need it. Brody still must sign off on the details, but, absent a surprise, it looks as if this portion of the litigation is over. Players still are continuing litigation against Riddell, which makes football helmets.
Players' compensation will be based on their age and the number of years they played in the NFL. They will not be required to prove that their health woes were caused by injuries they sustained while playing in the NFL.
Legal experts already are speculating about who came out on top in this deal, suggesting that the NFL could have been forced to pay more. Perhaps it could have; no one can say for sure.
But this is a complicated issue. No one knows better than the players that football is a tough game, that risk is inherent. Yet they continue to play, and fans continue to watch. Football is a game, it's a business, it's a public spectacle in which everyone freely participates.
Whether it's head injuries, knee injuries or no injury, everyone knows the score. Now, too, they know the costs in terms of players' long-term health and financial damages paid to settle the litigation that results.