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The NFL's billion-dollar concussion settlement with players was officially approved

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
(Mario Tama/Getty Images)
  1. The NFL has finally resolved its protracted lawsuit with 5,000 former players who sued over concussions and long-term brain damage.
  2. Back in 2013, the two sides had agreed to a $765 million settlement for the players, but it was rejected by the judge because it might not have covered all players' claims in future years.
  3. This week, a federal judge approved a new settlement, which removes the cap on total damages. It's estimated the settlement could cost the NFL $1 billion over the next 65 years.
  4. Players are eligible for up to $5 million each if they have certain neurodegenerative diseases, though most will receive much less.
  5. Unless further appeals delay the case, players can start filing for benefits later this year.

The players alleged the NFL didn't protect them from concussions

Judge Anita B. Brody's approval is the final stage in a lawsuit filed in 2011 by former NFL players who alleged that the league didn't sufficiently protect them from concussions — or the long-term effects of repetitive brain trauma, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

The suit was filed by some 5,000 former players, but the settlement's terms will cover more than 20,000 NFL retirees — a condition the NFL insisted on in order to avoid future lawsuits. About 200 players, however, specifically opted out of the settlement to retain their right to sue in future years.

The initial settlement didn't seem to be enough to cover future players

After the two sides reached a $765 million settlement in September 2013, critics questioned whether the sum could cover all the players who might suffer from neurodegenerative diseases in future years.

During the subsequent proceedings, the NFL estimated that 30 percent of former players would develop dementia or Alzheimer's during their lifetimes, a rate roughly double that of the general population. Scientists still don't know what proportion of players will develop CTE, which can only be diagnosed after death.

Players will be entitled to specific payouts based on varying diagnoses

The approved settlement puts no hard cap on the NFL's total responsibility. Instead, the league is required to pay for medical monitoring of all former players, who are entitled to specific payouts based on various diagnoses:

nfl suit

(NFL Players' Concussion Injury Litigation)

The settlement means that one front in the NFL's ongoing head trauma crisis is effectively closed. But the league is still contending with many researchers' belief that the game of football is inherently dangerous to the players who are hit in the head over and over during every game.

This has led the league to make some rule changes seeking to minimize especially violent hits, but some players and fans are skeptical that it'll be enough — such as 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, who retired from the game at the age of 24 last month due to worries about long-term brain damage.