How Much Is An NFL Brain Worth?

November 19, 2014
by Jason M. Breslow Digital Editor

If the NFL will ever be able to turn the page on its long-running concussion crisis, then Wednesday may be a pivotal day.

At stake at a courtroom hearing in Philadelphia will be a multimillion-dollar settlement between the NFL and thousands of former players who are accusing the nation’s most profitable sports league of concealing a link between football and long-term brain injury. The judge in the case has already given the deal her preliminary approval. Now, she will hear arguments over whether to rule the agreement fair. If she does, the settlement moves an important step closer to final approval. If she doesn’t, the future of the deal turns murky at best.

Her decision will carry wide-ranging implications. If the deal is OK’d, its terms would apply to the roughly 20,000 retired NFL players still alive today.

Less than 1 percent of retirees have opted out of the agreement, but according to The Los Angeles Times, around 140 ex-players filed official objections for the court to consider at Wednesday’s fairness hearing.

Some argue that the agreement unfairly limits payouts for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease that helped ignite the concussion crisis. Others say the list of conditions that would qualify for a payment is too narrow, and does not include problems commonly associated with repetitive head trauma, such as depression or mood and behavioral disorders.

Another problem, say some players, is that payments decrease with age. For instance, if a retiree is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) before turning 45, he would qualify for the maximum payment of $5 million. If he is diagnosed at age 80, his payment shrinks to $300,000.

For its part, the NFL has said the agreement demonstrates its commitment to “to provide help to those retired players and their families who are in need, and to do so without the delay, expense and emotional cost associated with protracted litigation.” In June, the league removed a cap on the amount it will pay out in damages.

So is the agreement fair? And how did both sides even come up with a formula to pay players to begin with? We take a closer look in the video below:

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