The National Football League and more than 4,500 of its former players have reached a $765 million agreement to settle lawsuits alleging that the league hid the dangers of brain injuries and didn’t do enough to protect players from concussions.
The lawsuit, which includes former stars like Tony Dorsett and Jim McMahon, plus the family of the late Junior Seau, has been making its way through U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. Last month, the NFL filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the case, but instead of ruling on the motion one way or another, U.S. District Court Judge Anita B. Brody ordered both sides to mediation. Today’s announced settlement agreement is a product of those mediation sessions.
According to the New York Times, “the money would be used for medical exams, concussion-related compensation and a program of medical research for retired players and their families. The N.F.L. also agreed to pay [the plaintiffs’] legal fees.”
The settlement comes at a time when unprecedented attention is being paid to player safety at all levels of the game — from the NFL and college all the way down to Pop Warner leagues — with a particular emphasis on preventing, diagnosing, and treating head injuries like concussions. (Learn more about Legal Liability for Brain Injuries.)
In the not-so-distant past, after a violent helmet-to-helmet collision, an NFL player was said to have had his “bell rung,” and he might spend a play or two on the sidelines in many instances. These days, team medical staff is on strict notice, and players must pass a rigid protocol when a concussion is suspected. It isn’t rare for a concussion to lead to weeks of a player being designated as “Out” on a team’s injury report, and teams are operating with an abundance of medical caution when it comes to players who have histories of concussions and other head injuries.
The Washington Post recently published an article spotlighting the NFL’s complicated dance on the line between player safety and league culpability: Do No Harm: NFL Tries to Improve Player Safety Without Admitting to Any Liability for Past. And PBS’ Frontline has weighed in on the topic in a timely feature focused on Football Head Injuries.