Recap: The NFL Concussion Settlement


In late August the NFL and 4,500 former players avoided going to trial , by settling for $766. [1.  Daniel Engber, The NFL Concussion Settlement Is Bad News For Football Fans, Slate (Aug. 29, 2013).] Approximately $675 million from the total settlement will be used to set up a fund to compensate players who have suffered concussion related injuries, or their families; a maximum of $75 million for retired players’ medical exams, which could be used to diagnose future neurodegenerative disease; and $10 million devoted to research and education. [2. Michael David Smith, NFL Reaches $765 Million Settlement in Concussion Lawsuit, Pro Football Talk (Aug. 29, 2013, 12:43 PM)] The rest of the settlement will be devoted to legal fees and the cost of administering funds to plaintiffs. The funds will be doled out over the next 20 years.[3.Engber.]

By settling the NFL has avoided accepting liability for the injuries suffered by the 4,500 former players in the class action suit.  The NFL may have sidestepped a potentially devastating public relations hit, by settling.[4. Engber.] To move forward with litigation and trial proceedings the NFL would have to enter a discovery stage in which the NFL would be legally compelled to share everything they know about concussions and the effect playing professional football has in its athletes. The exposure resulting from the discovery stages of trial have the potential to jeopardize the sport of football at every level. A settlement of $766m for an organization that generates approximately 9 billion in profits every year is hardly punitive. And when looked at in greater detail only half of the $675m is to be paid out immediately, while the other half is to be dispersed over the course for the next twenty years.

Though a step in the right direction, this is hardly the last you’ll hear related to the compensation, regulation, and precautions for concussion safety in the NFL. Four former players have filed a new suit in New Orleans and more legal action similar to this is likely to ensue.[5. Associated Press, Four Ex-NFL Players File New Concussion Lawsuit Against League, (Sept. 3, 2013).] In the coming months and years there is sure to be additional action taken to address concussion issues for current players, and future retirees that aren’t aided directly by this settlement. We will continue to monitor related litigation in the NFL as well as trends in other high impact sports where concussion safety is of significant interest.

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