A federal judge has approved a settlement agreement that is expected to cost the NFL $1 billion over 65 years to resolve thousands of concussion lawsuits. NFL actuaries project about 6,000 of the league's nearly 20,000 retired players could someday develop Alzheimer's or moderate dementia over the life of the deal approved today by a federal judge in Philadelphia. The average individual award would be about $190,000. Awards could reach $1 million to $5 million for those diagnosed in their 30s and 40s with Parkinson's disease or Lou Gehrig's disease, or for deaths involving chronic brain trauma. The benefits process could start this summer, but any appeal would delay all payments indefinitely.
"What matters now is time, and many retired players do not have much left," said plaintiff Kevin Turner, a former New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles running back who has Lou Gehrig's disease. The league has been dogged for years by complaints that it long hid the risks of repeated concussions to return players to the field. Senior US District Judge Anita Brody approved the settlement after twice sending it back to lawyers over concerns the fund might run out. The negotiators did not increase the original $765 million plan, but agreed to remove that number as the cap. The settlement approval, a week before the NFL draft, ends a nearly four-year legal fight. Critics contend the NFL is getting off lightly given annual revenues of about $10 billion.