For­mer NFL play­ers ap­peal terms of con­cus­sion set­tle­ment


For­mer NFL play­ers who ob­ject to terms of the po­ten­tial US$1 bil­lion con­cus­sion set­tle­ment have filed ap­peals that are likely to de­lay pay­outs to thou­sands of re­tirees un­til next year.

About a dozen ap­peals on be­half of as many as 90 for­mer play­ers were ex­pected to be filed by Mon­day’s dead­line. The 3rd U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals in Philadelphia could hear ar­gu­ments on the is­sues this fall.

Some chal­lenge the ex­clu­sion of fu­ture cases of CTE, or chronic trau­matic en­cephalopa­thy, the brain de­cay that many link to football con­cus­sions. Oth­ers are con­cerned the set­tle­ment awards play­ers with neu­rocog­ni­tive symp­toms, such as Alzheimer’s dis­ease and de­men­tia, but not those with be­hav­ioral and mood dis­or­ders that some link to CTE and con­cus­sions.

A lawyer for 51-year-old for­mer line­backer Jesse Solomon, who spent eight sea­sons with five teams, called the ex­clu­sion “un­fair” and “un­rea­son­able” in an ap­peal filed last week. Solomon could get noth­ing from the set­tle­ment de­spite suf­fer­ing from mem­ory loss, slurred speech, se­vere headaches and other dis­abling con­di­tions, the ap­peal said.

Ne­go­tia­tors who forged the deal ar­gue that the science on CTE is still evolv­ing. The es­tates of play­ers who died and were di­ag­nosed with CTE from 2006 to 2014 can seek up to US$4 mil­lion, but fu­ture deaths are ex­cluded to avoid “in­cen­tiviz­ing” sui­cide. The prob­lem can­not cur­rently be di­ag­nosed in the liv­ing.

Other play­ers want the award cal­cu­la­tions to in­clude time played in pre­sea­son games or train­ing camp. Cur­rently, a player had to play in three reg­u­lar sea­son games to get credit for that sea­son. The awards are sharply re­duced for men with less than five years in the league.

For­mer player An­drew Stewart, 49, of Sur­rey, Bri­tish Columbia, has Parkin­son’s dis­ease. He would get only one year of credit for his 1989 sea­son with the Cleve­land Browns un­der the cur­rent plan. But the NFL’s dis­abil­ity and pen­sion plan cred­its him with the three ad­di­tional years he spent in train­ing camp or pre­sea­son games be­fore be­ing in­jured.

“A lot of play­ers may not be aware of the dif­fer­ence in def­i­ni­tions,” lawyer Michael Rosen­thal said Mon­day.

Chris Seeger, co-lead coun­sel for the re­tired-player plain­tiffs, called the ap­peals “heart­break­ing news for in­jured re­tired NFL play­ers who will now be forced to wait many months longer for the care and fi­nan­cial sup­port they des­per­ately need.”

The NFL ex­pects about 6,000 for­mer play­ers to de­velop Alzheimer’s dis­ease or mod­er­ate de­men­tia in the com­ing decades. A small num­ber are also ex­pected to be di­ag­nosed with Lou Gehrig’s dis­ease or Parkin­son’s dis­ease.

The max­i­mum awards could reach US$5 mil­lion but would likely av­er­age US$190,000, given re­duc­tions for ad­vanced age, other med­i­cal con­di­tions and years spent in the league. The set­tle­ment, which in­cludes base­line test­ing and med­i­cal mon­i­tor­ing, cov­ers more than 20,000 re­tirees for 65 years.

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