The National Football League’s approximately $1 billion concussion settlement was upheld Monday, April 18th by a United States federal appeals court. The court referred to the agreement as “imperfect, but fair”. A small faction of former NFL players had objected to the deal that was finalized in April of 2015 by Judge Anita Brody of the Philadelphia U.S. district court. The primary objection was that the concussion settlement did not cover possible survivors of a degenerative brain disease that many researchers had linked to repetitive head trauma and other brain injuries.
Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro said for the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals’ three-person judicial panel in Philadelphia, “It is the nature of a settlement that some will be dissatisfied with the ultimate result, but they risk making the perfect the enemy of the good”. Objecting current players, retirees, and NFL reps that agreed to the $1B settlement were not available for comment. The concussion settlement itself was comprised of a $5M payment to each of the parties involved on the plaintiff side, provided they were diagnosed with specific neurological ailments. Unfortunately, it failed to remedy any instance of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (or CTE), which can be the result of concussions, according to scientists. The settlement in question was initialized by the lawyers of more than 5,000 former NFL players, but the agreement may cover an excess of 21,000 retirees from the league, according to reports from the court.
The concussion settlement seeks to remedy the overwhelming presence of CTE in NFL players. Approximately 200+ plaintiffs objected to the concussion settlement, as they claimed it would not cover individuals who had yet to be diagnosed with CTE. Additionally, it was disputed that the agreement unjustly favored current retirees, while leaving thousands of potential victims of neurological diseases without a solution. CTE was discovered in the course of autopsies on several NFL retirees, most notably Hall of Fame member and linebacker Junior Seau, as well as Pro Bowl safety Dave Duerson. Both men died after taking their own lives. The NFL failed to acknowledge the connection between CTE and football until March of 2016.
It was noted by the appeals court that scientific data on CTE is still very new and difficult to obtain, as there’s no way currently to conclusively diagnose a player while still living. However, it was pointed out that memory loss and several other symptoms of CTE would qualify one for settlement compensation.