A federal judge in Philadelphia is urging NFL retirees to register for a concussion settlement that could cost the league $1 billion over 65 years.
About 22,000 retirees are encouraged to get baseline neurological testing. The league expects more than 6,000 of them to eventually be diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
The deal approved by Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody resolves thousands of lawsuits that accused the NFL of hiding what it knew about the risks of repeated concussions in order to return players to the field.
At a hearing Wednesday in Philadelphia, lead lawyers reminded participants they must register for the settlement by Aug. 7. Participants could be eligible for treatment and damage awards. The awards can reach several million dollars for younger men with the most severe neurological damage, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. The average award is expected to be about $190,000 for those suffering from Alzheimer's disease or moderate dementia.
The awards do not cover depression, mood disorders or future cases of chronic encephalopathy, or CTE, which some consider the signature disease of football. However, the U.S. Supreme Court in December declined to hear appeals filed over those exclusions, prompting the rollout of the plan. Players' lawyers hope the first checks will be sent out by early summer.
The NFL this week is moving the first $65 million in payments into trust funds that cover injury claims, baseline testing and education. The league must then pay another $120 million into the injury fund over the next six months.
The 65-year settlement program covers players who retired from the league by Jan. 7, 2014.
"One year from now, I expect to have a lot of money transferred from the NFL to, unfortunately, a lot of sick former NFL players," said Christopher Seeger, a lead players' lawyer.
The awards cover ALS, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, dementia and deaths involving chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. The awards will vary based on a person's diagnosis, age and time in the NFL. The settlement committee is setting up a network of doctors around the country to conduct testing. Any doctors with any ties to the NFL are ineligible to take part.
Brody has ordered the parties to revisit the settlement as the science on CTE advances.
Some former players appealed the settlement over the exclusion of future CTE cases and depression, but the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. About 160 others have opted out and will pursue individual lawsuits.