Law & Courts

Youth-Sports Implications of the NFL’s Concussion-Lawsuit Settlement

By Bryan Toporek — August 29, 2013 2 min read
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The National Football League has reached a tentative $765 million settlement in the concussion-related lawsuits filed by thousands of former players, former U.S. District Judge Layn Phillips, the court-appointed mediator in the case, announced today.

NFL retirees aren’t the only ones who will benefit from the settlement, however.

The settlement also includes a separate research and education fund of $10 million, at least part of which “will be used to support joint efforts by the NFL and retired NFL players to promote education and safety initiatives in youth football.”

Under the proposed settlement, the league will provide $675 million worth of medical benefits and injury compensation for retired NFL players, offer up to $75 million baseline medical exams over the next 10 years, and cover legal expenses. If the settlement is approved, the NFL will pay out approximately 50 percent over the next three years, and the remaining 50 percent over the following 17 years.

The specifics of those youth-education and -safety initiatives weren’t defined in the principal terms of the settlement. It’s likely, however, that programs like USA Football’s “Heads Up Football,” which strives to teach youth-football players safe tackling techniques, will be among the beneficiaries.

In a Q&A posted on the NFL’s website regarding the settlement, Phillips said, “parents should know that the NFL and the plaintiffs are committed to doing what’s right for the game and making it safer at all levels. The proposed settlement includes funds for medical research and education to support those goals.”

The theme of “doing what’s right for the game” was echoed throughout the announcement of the settlement.

“This agreement lets us help those who need it most and continue our work to make the game safer for current and future players,” said NFL executive vice president Jeffrey Pash in a statement. “Commissioner [Roger] Goodell and every owner gave the legal team the same direction: do the right thing for the game and for the men who played it.”

“From the outset of this litigation, I have expressed my belief that the interests of all parties would be best served by a negotiated resolution of this case,” said U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody, who is presiding over the cases, in a statement . “The settlement holds the prospect of avoiding lengthy, expensive and uncertain litigation, and of enhancing the game of football.”

Over the coming weeks, Brody will schedule a hearing to determine whether to grant preliminary approval to the terms of the settlement. If she does, retired players will have an opportunity to file objections before a final approval hearing.

In other words: Just because the players and league have reached a tentative settlement, the NFL isn’t completely out of the woods yet.

For now, however, it means the specter of these concussion-related lawsuits won’t be hanging over the league’s head with the start of the regular season only days away.

Once more details emerge about the youth-football related elements of the settlement, check back here for further analysis.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.