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More than a Headache: NFL Retirees Continue Fighting for Compensation

For years, the NFL (National Football League) denied that repetitive brain traumas such as concussions and other blows to the head caused permanent brain injury — with disastrous consequences for thousands of players. Over 4,500 retired players and their families sued the NFL, claiming that the league hid the dangers of brain injury while profiting from the game’s violence. In August 2013, the NFL agreed to pay $765 million to settle the suits rather than face a court battle. The settlement will fund medical exams, concussion-related compensation and a program of medical research for all retired NFL players, not just the plaintiffs. Nonetheless, the NFL refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing.

As early as the 1920s, progressive neurological deterioration was documented in boxers. Researchers noted that athletes in sports which involved repeated trauma to the head developed an alarmingly high rate of dementia-like symptoms. However, it was hard to conclusively prove the link because the disease now known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) can only be diagnosed posthumously.

Researchers at Boston University studied brain samples donated by 85 people aged 17 to 98 who had experienced repetitive mild traumatic brain injury throughout their lives. CTE was found in 80 percent of their brains. Retired NFL players in the study who had CTE included John Mackey, tight end for the Baltimore Colts, who developed dementia shortly after retiring. Three players who committed suicide also tested positive for CTE - Andre Waters, former Eagles defensive back,NFL linebacker Junior Seau, and Dave Duerson, former Chicago Bears safety. Nathan Styles, who was 20 years old when he died after a football injury, already had early signs of CTE.

Athletes concerned about CTE should watch for the following symptoms:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impulse control problems
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Progressive dementia

Football players seeking compensation for their head injuries should contact a qualified and experienced personal injury attorney to secure maximum compensation.