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Appeals court upholds estimated $1-billion NFL concussion settlement

Cowboys vs. Eagles

Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman suffered a concussion on this 1997 play when sacked by the Eagles’ Jimmie Jones, left, and William Thomas.

(Tom Mihalek / AFP)

Affirming a decision approved almost a year ago, a federal appeals court Monday upheld the settlement to long-running concussion litigation between the NFL and retired players.

The uncapped settlement, which compensates some players suffering from a variety of conditions, could be worth more than $1 billion, or significantly less.

The deal applies to all retired NFL players -- regardless of whether they sued – who weren’t among the roughly 200 who opted out of the agreement.

The retired players who were appealing the settlement had argued that the deal should include future payments for those diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease found in dozens of deceased players. An NFL executive recently acknowledged for the first time a link between football and CTE. However, the appellate judges found the current settlement was for the greater good for all players.

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“As the Third Circuit correctly stated, ‘This settlement will provide significant and immediate relief to retired players living with the lasting scars of a NFL career, including those suffering from some of the symptoms associated with CTE,’” said Christopher Seeger, co-lead counsel for the retired NFL player class plaintiffs.

“This agreement helps retired NFL players and their families – from those who suffer with neuro-cognitive illnesses today, to those who are currently healthy but fear they may develop symptoms decades into the future. This is why over 99% of the retired player community supports this agreement as well.”

In 2014, the NFL released the findings of a study predicting that about three in 10 retired players will develop serious neurocognitive problems such as Alzheimer’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The report did not include CTE.

According to the settlement, the families of players who received a postmortem diagnosis of CTE prior to the deal’s final approval could be eligible for up to $4 million. The total depends on seasons in the league, age at diagnosis and other factors. However, the agreement does not compensate for CTE after the deadline, which was April 22, 2015, a point of contention in the appeal.

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