Retired NFL players seeking payouts from the potential $1-billion (U.S.) NFL concussion settlement could be waiting until next year based on appeals being weighed this fall.
About 90 former players are appealing the final settlement approved this year by a federal judge in Philadelphia. The settlement covers about 21,000 NFL retirees.
Experts for both sides have said they expect about 6,000 of the retirees — or nearly 3 in 10 — to suffer from Alzheimer's disease or moderate dementia someday. The settlement would pay them about $190,000 on average.
Dozens of others are expected to be diagnosed with Parkinson's or Lou Gehrig's disease. Younger men with these conditions could get up to several million dollars for medical care and other expenses.
"These appeals are without merit, and also heartbreaking for injured retired NFL players, many of whom suffer from terminally failing health and are in dire need of this settlement's benefits," said Christopher Seeger, a lead plaintiffs' lawyer involved in the long negotiations with the NFL.
The settlement would resolve lawsuits that accuse the league of hiding what it knew about the risks of returning to play after suffering a concussion. The plan includes medical monitoring and treatment over 65 years.
Those appealing the settlement must lay out their objections in briefs to be filed by Aug. 15. The responses are due in September, according to a briefing schedule filed this week by the federal appeals court in Philadelphia. Several of the lawyers filing appeals did not immediately return messages Wednesday.
However, critics have complained that the NFL, with $10-billion in annual revenues, is getting off lightly. Others complain that the settlement does not include future payments for CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which some consider the signature disease of football. Negotiators argued that the science on CTE is still evolving.
U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody twice had negotiators tweak the settlement, but rejected other complaints raised at a November hearing, including those who decried the lack of future CTE coverage. Currently, the degenerative brain decay can only be diagnosed after death.
"The NFL parties were unwilling to settle claims based solely on a [diagnosis] ... rather than on manifest neurocognitive deficits. Many of the behavioural and mood conditions claimed to be associated with CTE are prevalent within the general public," the negotiators have said in court papers supporting the settlement.