Concussion

The NFL reached a settlement with six insurance companies that had sued the league over whether they are responsible for covering the $1 billion concussion settlement reached with former players, according to an Aug. 7 report from Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Daily.

While the league has taken an important step toward finalizing the source of the payments of the concussion settlement, Kaplan also reported that dozens more insurance companies are still suing the league to find out whether it hid important evidence linking football to brain diseases.

Around 30 insurance companies that wrote policies for the NFL since the 1960s were asked to pay the settlement and cover the league’s legal costs. According to The New York Times, those insurance companies are pushing back against the league over allegations that the league committed fraud. The insurance companies contend that they should not be responsible for settlement payments if the league lied.

The settlement terms with the six insurance companies remain unknown, but the NFL may hafe agreed to pay for some or all of the settlement to avoid going to trial where damaging records may be unearthed.

“Full-blown discovery and a trial in open court would expose to public scrutiny plenty of the what-the-league-knew-and-when-the-league-knew-it details that remained concealed by the settlement of the underlying concussion lawsuits,” reported Mike Florio of NBC Sports.

The NFL settled with thousands of former players before the trial ever went to the discovery phase where information about what the league actually knew about the risk of concussions would come out to the public. By suing to find out that information, insurance companies have leverage against the league that may still be trying to keep what it knew out of the public.

The league is currently discussing potential settlements with other insurance companies, according to Florio.

Thousands of Players Opted Into the NFL Concussion Settlement

The news of a settlement came the same day as the registration period for retired players closed. More than 18,400 of the roughly 21,000 retired players eligible to receive benefits had applied before the deadline closed.

Christopher Seeger, a lead lawyer for the retired players, was still urging players to register just days before the deadline.

“This response from former N.F.L. players is tremendous, but we want to make sure all class members register — even those who may feel healthy today — so they can be eligible for the benefits they fought for and deserve,” Seeger said.

Although 88 percent of eligible players registered, lawyers faced a challenge in getting players to sign up to the settlement, which would not only give some players financial payouts for eligible neurocognitive diseases but also allow them to undergo baseline medical tests.

Seeger said that players some players might not have signed up because they feel healthy today. Former Miami Dolphins defensive back Shawn Wooden told the Times that players may fear signing up because it would hurt their reputation or cause them to develop a disease due to superstition.

“There’s a pool of guys who don’t want to confront it,” he said. “It could be a good-sized group because we’re superstitious by nature.”

In June, the first two claims against the NFL in the concussion settlement were approved for a total of $9 million — $5 million for a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and $4 million for a diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Concussion Remain Major Concern in NFL

Despite the settlement agreement with players, concussions remain an albatross hanging over the NFL. In one of the most alarming studies, a researcher found that 110 out of 111 brains of deceased former NFL players had CTE.

The survey was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in July and was one of the most extensive looks at the brains of deceased football players.

Neuropathologist Ann McKee found that the issue of CTE was prevalent in all ages and every position on the field, particularly linemen and running backs.

“It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football — there is a problem,” McKee said to the Times.