By Daniel Lovering
BOSTON (Reuters) – Former National Football League players suffering from health problems will be eligible to receive as much as $5 million each under a settlement reached in a lawsuit brought by thousands of retired players.
The ex-NFL players will not have to show their injuries were caused by football, Christopher Seeger, an attorney for the retired players, said on Tuesday, a day after filing a preliminary motion for approval of the settlement in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The details of the deal come four months after the NFL agreed to pay more than $760 million to settle a lawsuit brought by more than 4,500 former players.
The settlement, and the fact it does not require proof that injuries were sustained from football, avoids a lengthy trial that could have delved into the league’s understanding of the potential toll the game takes on its players.
Sports business experts at the time of the settlement in late August said that it was a modest sum for the NFL, believed to generate total revenue of $9 billion or $10 billion a year.
The settlement includes $675 million to compensate former players and their families, $75 million to test retired players for neuropsychological and neurological conditions and $10 million to fund educational and safety programs for football players, according to court documents.
Retired players diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease — formally known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – will receive up to $5 million each, Seeger said. Maximum payments for other diagnoses, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, range from $1.5 to $4 million, according to the agreement.
“Former players will not need to demonstrate that their injuries were caused by football in order to receive compensation or medical benefits, nor will they have to prove a scientific link between concussions and their disease today,” Seeger said.
The families of players who died in 2006 or later and were posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease, also will be compensated, he said.
Under the compensation program, which will last for 65 years, Seeger said players diagnosed with early, or mild to moderate, dementia will be eligible for compensation of up to $1.5 million. If their condition worsens, he said, they could be eligible for up to $1.5 million more.
“By fleshing out these programs now our, hope is that retired players will be able to begin receiving their benefits immediately after the court grants final approval of this settlement,” expected in late May or early June, he said in a conference call with reporters.
A growing body of academic research shows the repeated hits to the head endured by players can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which can lead to aggression and dementia.
The research has prompted the NFL to make changes in play, including banning the most dangerous helmet-to-helmet hits and requiring teams to keep players who have taken hits to the head off the field if they show symptoms such as memory gaps or dizziness.
(Editing by Scott Malone, Andrew Hay and Ken Wills)