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NFL Expects 1 in 3 Players to Develop Long-Term Cognitive Problems

By Allan M. Siegel

The National Football League has finally admitted that football players face high risks of suffering brain damage and permanent impairments as a result of their careers. When commenting on the data used to arrive at its original settlement agreement, the NFL stated in federal court documents that it expects close to a third of retired players will develop long-term cognitive problems and that impairments are likely to develop at a younger age.

Football Concussion Lawsuit

The league supported this statement after collecting data to support its creation of the NFL concussion settlement, which was agreed upon by both the NFL and former players last year. Although not an admission of fault, the league has acknowledged that NFL athletes are more likely to suffer brain trauma and impairments than people in the general population and that these conditions will emerge at notably younger ages. The statement helps solidify the link between brain trauma and long-term neurological impairment, including conditions such as:

  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer's
  • Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)
  • Parkinson's
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

NFL Concussion Settlement

The data – released on Friday September 12th – was used by both the league and former players filing suit when they agreed last year to create a $675 million settlement pool to cover injuries and conditions associated with head trauma players experienced while in the NFL. When the fund was created, many criticized it and did not believe it was enough. U.S. District Court Judge Anita B. Brody agreed when she rejected the settlement earlier this year. Although both sides of the lawsuit arrived at similar numbers when agreeing to the terms of the settlement, the data was rendered unnecessary after the NFL removed the settlement cap in June.

Although the numbers may no longer matter in the lawsuit, they do put statistics about brain damage in the NFL into perspective:

  • About 28% of former players are expected to suffer neurological conditions that make them eligible for compensation.
  • About 60% of eligible players are expected to file claims – totaling an estimated $900 - $950 million in payouts.
  • The NFL's calculations found that athletes younger than 50 have a 0.8% chance of developing Alzheimer's or dementia compared to less than 0.1% for the general population. Players ages 50-54 would face a 1.4% chance, compared to less than 0.1% for the general population.

The bottom line regarding the newly released data is that it recognizes the link between football-related head trauma and long-term cognitive problems. For anyone who may have had doubts, these numbers help show why ensuring full and fair compensation for injured athletes is so important.