Football-related brain injuries means trouble for the NFL

Sports fans everywhere are well aware of the NFL’s recent legal battles involving players who suffered concussions while playing football. A recent study examined 79 former players and discovered that 76 of these players had a degenerative brain disease. The study indicates that the occurrence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy has more than doubled.

CTE can only be determined posthumously. Many of the deceased players had donated their brain for research because they suspected while they were alive that they had the disease. The disease occurs as a result of repetitive head trauma and brain injury, which causes the brain to produce abnormal proteins referred to as “tau.” The disease can have a negative impact on functioning and kill nerve cells. Severe cases of the disease can result in memory loss, advanced dementia and confusion. Less severe cases can cause depression, rage and mood disorders.

Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster was found to have CTE, along with former San Diego Chargers star Junior Seau. Recently, 4,500 former players brought a class-action concussion case against the NFL.

By October 14, thousands of NFL retirees and their beneficiaries will have to make a decision regarding whether to opt out of a proposed settlement in the case. The settlement does not acknowledge any wrongdoing, but actuarial data filed in federal court this month showed the NFL estimates the quantity of individuals that will develop a long-term cognitive problem is approximately 30 percent of retired players.

Survivors of players who have died of CTE can qualify for $4 million in payment. Some families, such as Seau’s, are opting out of the settlement. Seau’s family filed a wrongful death suit against the league. Other players may also opt out of the settlement. In November, the judge in the case will hold a Fairness Hearing to consider any challenges before final approval.

Source: PBS, “76 of 79 Deceased NFL Players Found to Have Brain Disease,” Jason M. Breslow, Sep. 30, 2014